I read a lot about history. Some sources were boring, but I found many giving me interesting questions, answers, or ideas to think about. We can be glad we don’t need to stick only to books anymore and we can use many incredible documentaries with visuals. Even if you know a lot about history, a well-made documentary can enrich you a lot. In most cases, the text is hard to remember. When you can connect information with visualization, you will remember it better. In this special post, I want to share documentaries I found and, in my opinion, are excellent.
The first two documentaries cover a vast period in just a few episodes if you don’t have enough time:
- Deep Time History
- The Story of Europe
The following list contains documentaries focusing always on a specific part of history, sorted by time:
- Out of the Cradle
- Enigma Man: A Stone Age Mystery
- The History of Food
- Bronze Age, 2016
- The Celts: Blood, Iron, and Sacrifice with Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver
- Storm over Europe: The Wandering Tribes
- Knights, 2014
- Holy Wars
- The Real War of Thrones
- America Before Columbus
- The Tulip Bubble
- They Shall Not Grow Old
- Apocalypse: World War I
- Apocalypse: Verdun
- Apocalypse: Never-Ending War 1918-1926
- Apocalypse: The Rise of Hitler
- Apocalypse: Stalin
- Apocalypse: The Second World War
- D-Day Sacrifice
- Korea: The Never-Ending War
- The Vietnam War
Many of those documentaries can be found on Curiositystream.com.
In case you want something more, I can recommend two (three to be precise) courses on Coursera.org. One is about the Modern World, divided into two parts. The first part is talking about Industrial Revolution, human revolutions, capitalism and how it changed human life, covering time between 1760 and 1910 and the second one about ideology wars of the last century, including the rest of modern time from 1910 up to 2015.
The second excellent course I took is about the Bible. I was a little disappointed because I expected something else; nevertheless, I can highly recommend The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future. This course helped me understand why and how the Bible was created, and it also helped me connect the dots between ancient empires.
To make the list of sources complete, I will also include books. Unfortunately, I studied mostly from Czech books. If you happen to be a Czech speaker, I can recommend books from Živá historie. Besides ancient times they have five remarkable encyclopedias about Czech and Slovak history. I wrote a review about one of them. Worth the money!
Yuval Noah Harari wrote the most influential books I read. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is the one if you are interested only in history. But I would also recommend another two books, Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, talking about problems of today’s world, and how the future can look like. The mentioned books do not give any solution or lesson to take. Harari gives only historical and philosophical perspectives on many topics, making you think a lot. It opened my eyes a lot.
Another interesting book is not about history itself but helped me to understand the beginning of humanity. How genes and cultural life evolved and how it influences one from each other. Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society is excellent in describing what is encoded in us. In the book, you can also find hints about how our modern way of life can change our future evolution.
Another interesting perspective can be found in the book Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil. This book explains history by facts about energy. Which materials were available, which tools, how it affected options to farm, build, or move around, with calculations how many people is needed for different activities and how many people could be fed, and so on.
Another book I could recommend is A History of God, or boring The wealth of Nations but good to read to understand today’s world, or revolutionary texts placed in the context to see a clear development of ideologies in The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings.