51 Great Online Resources for History Teachers
We are currently building this page to help history and social studies teachers, instructors and professors find useful online resources. This project will probably never end because new sites are continuously created and old sites disappear. We have already blown past 51 great online resources. If any of the resources link to a dead page or you would like to suggest a useful site please send an email to [email protected]
DailyHistory.org Study Guides
DailyHistory.org has over 900 articles that cover a multitude of topics. Our study guides organize core groups of materials for specific eras, and you can look for other articles with our search function. In addition to articles, we also have book reviews and booklists. Additionally, we have the complete Federalist Papers.
The American Yawp is an outstanding free online textbook that is divided into two volumes. You can also get a paper copy of the book from the Stanford University Press for $24.95 for each volume. The American Yawp is a massive "Collaboration Open U.S. History Textbook." Essentially it is an open-source textbook. Historians essentially modeled the textbook on the open-source model that has been successfully used for numerous computer programs such as Linux, MediaWiki, Wordpress, and many more. In addition to the textbook, "The American Yawp" has an excellent Sourcebook that can be used to expand on topics with primary source documents.
Besides being an excellent textbook, it is a great way to help reduce textbook costs for students because it can be accessed online for free.
"Digital History" is a free textbook and sourcebook for United States History written and created by Steven Mintz and Sara McNeil. It's a great site that has a ton of content. Additionally, "Digital History" is supported by the University of Houston. Digital History also provides quizzes, interactive history modules, timelines, and teaching resource that include lesson plans and handouts. The site does use flash and some browsers will block some of the images.
EEDSITEment! focuses on Lesson Plans and Study Activities. The Lesson Plans cover some topics and are exceptionally detailed. The plans even suggest how many class sessions should be used to teach the lesson. The lesson plan also breaks down how each day should be organized to get through all of the material. For example, take a look at Turning the Tide in Europe, 1941-1944. It provides background for the lesson, preparation, lesson activities, assessment, lesson extensions, and a ton of resources. These are some of the best lesson plans you will find online.
The site also has a section on Student Activities. There are over 200 different student activities that can be used in classrooms. These student activities include texts, videos, and interactive maps.
EDSITEment! is easily one of the best resources for teachers and instructors.
State Online History Encyclopedias and Archive Collections:
Many states have created online history websites through state historical organizations, state universities, university presses, and state humanities organizations. Some of the sites are fantastic and others are pretty underwhelming. Still, if you need your students to write about your state or a doing a state-based history project, it can be a good place to explore first. Additionally, some states have websites that can direct students to archives but most of these archives are not online. I am also concerned that some of the state resources for archives are not considered secure by google. While that is both concerning and embarrassing, it probably should not prevent students from using the websites.
If I am missing a state history Encyclopedia or history portal - please send me an email - [email protected] - so I can add it.
- The DPLA: Digital Public Library of America The DPLA includes a number of Primary Source Sets that allow teachers and students to explore specific topics. Additionally, the site may also be helpful if your state lacks a solid history site because it includes resources from all over the country.
- Encyclopedia of Alabama
- Alaska Humanities Forum Alaska History & Cultural Studies
- Encyclopedia of Arkansas
- Online Archive of California - This is only an archive - no articles. Most of the archives do not have any online resources available.
- Calisphere - University of California This site is a collection of California university archives and libraries.
- Colorado Encyclopedia
- DC History Center Includes a history blog focused on DC and links to archives.
- Floripedia: A Florida Encyclopedia
- New Georgia Encyclopedia
- 64 Parishes - Encyclopedia for Louisiana
- Maine: An Encyclopedia
- MNOpedia - Minnesota Encyclopedia
- The Mississippi Encyclopedia
- Missouri Encyclopedia
- Online Nevada Encyclopedia
- New York Heritage - Digital Collections
- Ohio Central History - Content is pretty limited
- The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
- Oregon Encyclopedia
- South Carolina Encyclopedia
- Tennessee Encyclopedia
- Utah History Encyclopedia
- Encyclopedia Virginia
- HistoryLink.org - Online Encyclopedia of Washington State
- The West Virginia Encyclopedia
The Smithsonian site includes teaching lessons, interactives, videos, museum artifacts, and other teacher resources. There is a remarkable amount of material to explore. The site also has an outstanding search function. The search function allows you to look for resources based on resources type (videos, artifacts, reference materials, etc.), grade, historical era, and cross-curricular connections (look for resources that touch on multiple subjects such as economics, science, etc.)
The United States National Archives The National Archives has a ton of resources on US history that focuses on primary source documents. Additionally, the Archives has created syllabi on how to teach students how to analyze primary sources. The Archives also created the DOCSTeach online tool for teaching archives from the National Archives.
The Archives has produced material that is primarily intended for middle and high school students. Here is an example of one of their Lesson Plans: Teaching Six Big Ideas in Constitution It creates several day ways to help to teach these documents.
Like the Smithsonian, the Libary of Congress is another outstanding United States government resource. The Library of Congress has multiple missions, but it has a teachers portal that allows you to browse materials and search for them more easily. It also has a search function that will help you find resources, but it isn't as good as the Smithsonian's search. It does allow you to search for content that satisfies Common Core and State materials. It also permits you to search for materials that fit organizational standards as set by the NCTE, AASL, NETS, NCSS and the NCSG.
- Chronicling America - Library Of Congress
Chronicling America is a digitized resource from the Libary of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. Chronicling America has a massive database of newspapers from all around the country. It is an outstanding place for students to learn how to use newspapers as a source for papers and history projects.
The Stanford History Education Group has created History Assessments of Thinking (HATS) that draw on the Library of Congress's digital resources. Here is a list of the HATS that Stanford has compiled. You can download the lesson plans from the site after you register (free) to the site. Typically, these HATS are critical writing assignments. The HATS use images or statements and to get students to write critically about the content. It is a fantastic way to add a writing assignment to cover materials that you have taught in class.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute is an archive based in the New York Historical Society building in New York. Instead of relying on its 70,000 piece collection on American History it has become a resource for teachers, undergraduate, and graduate students, professors and writers. Its website has a blog called History Now that has articles, videos, online timelines, and information from the Institute's exhibitions.
The 50+ Issues from History Now typically focus on a single broad historical topic. The articles in that issue will help you dive deeper into specific historical issues such as US Immigration Laws, Voting Rights, Alexander Hamilton, and Civil Rights. Each item of History Now links to relevant videos, articles, and even lesson plans.
TeachingHistory.org resource created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. It has a mixture of resources for teachers including teaching guides, lesson plan reviews, website reviews, history quizzes, guides to best practices, and history content. Teachinghistory.org has a ton of content, but you will need to do a deep dive into the site to find what you are looking for. Probably the most useful aspect of the Teachinghistory.org is its Website Reviews of various historical sites.
Newseumed.org has a critical mission. It provides free resources "to cultivate the First Amendment and media literacy skills essential civic life." In the new social media world, students need to know how "to authenticate, analyze and evaluate information from a variety of sources." Over the past few years, it has become clear that Americans struggle to do this. Newseumed.org wants to help. To access Newseumed.org you do have to register with the site, but the materials are free.
Through its EDTOOLS feature, Newseum has numerous resources for history, government, and civics teachers. The two most useful tools are Critical Debates and Lesson Plans. Here an example of a Critical Debate entitled Is the System Fair? and a lesson plan called Introduction to the First Amendment: What's a Violation?
Teaching with Historic Places is a site run by the National Park Service. The site is focused on using the National Park and sites on the National Register of Historic Places as educational tools to teach history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects.
The site has created Lesson Plans, Writing Assignments, Beyond the Classroom Activities and a Teacher Lessons Portal. They do have lessons plans for all states, but this a new site and it is still a touch wonky. Once they work out the kinks, it will be a great resource.
The American Battlefield Trust has created over 400 maps, videos, and articles that illustrate battles from the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. These maps, videos, and articles can be used to show what happened at over 400 battles. The site is exceedingly straightforward and informative.
The National Humanities Center is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the advancement of the understanding of the humanities and is supported by approximately 50 universities, foundations, and companies created America in Class. The website provides curated primary source materials for United States history classes. These materials would be appropriate for both high school and college students. These materials are organized into thematic and time-based collections. For example, here is a link to the Toolbox The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing: America 1815-1850. The Toolbox contains materials for different topics, checklists, timelines, topic framing questions, and source material.
The materials on the site are curated, and the selections are outstanding. That provides a ton of exceptional sources and guidance that helps teachers use the materials for discussions, assignments or essays.
The American Presidency Project, non-profit and non-partisan, is the leading source of presidential documents on the internet hosted at the University of California, Santa Barbara.It includes:
- The Messages and Papers of the Presidents: 1789-1929
- The Public Papers of the Presidents: since 1929
- The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: 1977-2009
- The Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents: post-2009
The Voices of Democracy is a web project that focuses on great speeches from American history. There is a journal, curriculum units (based on themes, Speakers, Authors and periods) and blog with short posts focused on crucial speeches. Typically, each speech part of the site will have either a video or text of the speech, an essay, teaching materials, and additional resources. Voices on Democracy also has an Grades 8-12 Educational Resource Guide that shows teachers how to use their materials and comply with Common Core Standards.
Google Arts and Culture (formerly Google Art Project) is an online platform that allows teachers to not only connect with art in some of the best museums in the world, but also extensively covers fashion, performing arts, and world heritage sites. The site uses pictures and articles to tell unique stories about some of the most influential artists in the world. Here is a profile on Alvin Ailey and his choreography. Here's another project that introduces the art of Vermeer.
Google Arts and Culture would be a useful resource to introduce arts and culture into history or other humanities courses.
PBS Media is a resource that includes videos, interactive content, and lesson plans. The site has resources for a ton beyond history and social studies. The critical component of PBS Media is its wealth of videos that have been drawn from PBS. It has over 6,000 videos (K-13+) on various social studies topics for students.
"The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is an all-digital library that aggregates metadata — or information describing an item — and thumbnails for millions of photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States." What does this mean? Essentially, it allows you to access sources from all over the world.
The DPLA has created the Primary Source Sets for teachers and instructors. The Source Sets explore historical topics with primary sources and teaching guides. You can search for the Source Sets either through the site's search function or on the Primary Source Sets page. On the Source Sets page, you can search based on subject, periods or recently added. For example, the Scopes Trial Source Set includes photos of the people involved in the trial, excerpts from the Tennessee biology textbooks, records of witness testimony, and even a political cartoon.
- Civil Rights Movement Primary Sources
- Freedom Summer (1964) Collection - Wisconsin Historical Society
- SNCC Digital Gateway
- KZSU Project South Interviews - Stanford University Libraries
- Complete interviews from Eyes on the Prize - Washington University in St. Louis
- Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Papers - Mississippi Department of MDAH Archives and History
- Freedom Summer Interviews - University of Florida
- Civil Rights Digital Library - University System of Georgia
- Southern Oral History Project
- Black Panther sources - Michigan State University
- Who Speaks for the Negro? - Interviews - Vanderbilt University
- FBI records on Civil Rights - The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Malcolm X Project - Columbia University
- Green Book Digital Archive - New York Public Library
- NY Black Freedom Struggle - Rochester University
- Umbra - Umbra Search African American History
- Goin' North - West Chester University
- Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina - The North Carolina Digital Collections from the State Library of North Carolina and the State Archives of North Carolina
The National Archives is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for maintaining and documenting government and historical records. The National Archives has been a resource for historians since its creation in 1934. The Archives has some resources available for teachers, but the DocsTeach.org is probably the most useful and readily accessible feature for teachers. DocsTeach.org is designed for educators to help them connect with the Archives resources.
BBC History site focuses on short interactive stories that mix charts, videos, pictures, and text boxes. The interactives are useful for teaching subjects quickly, but they lack the depth of other sites on this list. Regardless, the interactives are fun and entertaining. Here's a link to an interactive on The London Blitz.
The Zinn Education Project is inspired by Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States which emphasized the role of working people, women, people of color and the organized social movements that helped shape history. Zinn project is much less focused on politics that can take a central role in the history courses. The Zinn Education Project has a Teaching Materials portal that helps teachers find resources based on periods, themes, resource type, or grade level. It also has a keyword search function if you know what you are looking for. You can search for different types of resources including teaching activities, articles, profiles, posters, audio clips, websites, and many others. Here is an example of a Teaching Activity entitled COINTELPRO: Teaching the FBI's war on the Black Freedom Movement.
The Ancient History Encyclopedia is a carefully curated encyclopedia covering the ancient world history. The encyclopedia publishes articles, definitions, timelines, maps, and has a search function. If your students are studying ancient history, this is a good place to start. Unlike Wikipedia, the articles are written and edited by experts in their fields.
- History Blogs
- Nursing Clio - Nursing Clio describes itself as "open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog project that ties historical scholarship to present-day issues related to gender and medicine. Bodies, reproductive rights, and health care are often at the center of social, cultural, and political debates. We believe the issues that dominate today’s headlines and affect our daily lives reach far back into the past — that the personal is historical."
- Tropics of Meta - Tropics of Meta describes itself as a site dedicated to offering "a fresh perspective on history, current events, popular culture, and issues in the academic world. Founded in 2010, ToM has published over 700 essays by historians, social scientists, artists, filmmakers, and creative writers both within and outside the academy, giving voice to communities across the United States and the world."
- We're History - "We’re History tells the story of America and how the country became what it is today. Written by scholars, it is real history with all its triumphs, failures, twists, and ironies. Our contributors come from inside and outside of academia, but they are all committed to the idea that it is history that has made us who we are." We're History has a ton of great articles addressing different aspects of American History.
- The Junto - The Junto "Americanists dedicated to providing content of general interest to other early Americanists and those interested in early American history, as well as a forum for discussion of relevant historical and academic topics."
- Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society - The Points Blog "is an academic group blog that brings together scholars with wide-ranging expertise with the goal of producing original and thoughtful reflections on the history of alcohol and drugs, the web of policy surrounding them, and their place in popular culture."
- Process: A Blog for American History - "Process—the blog of the Organization of American Historians, The Journal of American History, and The American Historian—strives to engage professional historians and general readers in a better understanding of U.S. history."
- U.S. History Scene - This site is a fantastic resource for articles, primary sources, syllabi, and reading list covering American History. It describes itself as "a multimedia education website composed of historians and educators at over fifty universities dedicated to teaching the American past in a global context. Our goal is to use innovative open source technology and live digital curriculum to democratize learning and help history lovers master United States history in a way that is entertaining, relevant, and intuitive."
- Balkinization - Balkinization publishes articles that address current constitutional and legal issues with a historical lens. The authors are a collection of historians and law professors. They often explain currently relevant legal questions that are in the news. If there is a legal question dominating the headlines there is a good chance there is an in Balkinization on that topic. The only downside is that the site is somewhat difficult to use but it does have a useful search function.
The Organization of American Historians has some tools for high school and college-level United States history courses, but the material is primarily for members of the OAH. Memberships range in price from $45 (for students), $60 (K-12 Educators), and up to $245 (income over $150,000). The membership includes access to several OAH publications and US History Teaching Units. While there is a rationale to join the OAH as if you are United States history teacher, it probably cannot be justified based solely on the materials offered by the organization.
The American Historical Association (AHA), the largest history organization in the United States, has a much rich assortment of material for teachers and instructors. Like the OAH, the AHA is a member organization and has some excellent resources on their website. They offer a mixture of classroom materials, discussions of teaching, plagiarism and a Teaching and Learning History community portal. Like the OAH, some materials will require a membership. Membership for K-12 teachers costs $59 a year.
The Best History Sites from EdTechteacher is probably the most comprehensive listing of websites for teachers in different history fields. Despite being comprehensive, it is difficult to recommend the site because it does not appear to be updated regularly. If you start going through the site, you will find numerous dead or misdirected links. It is especially frustrating when you are looking for sources on World, Latin American, European, Asian, and African history courses. Still, it may be useful if you are willing to poke around the site.
- Online History Courses
Free online college-level history courses are an excellent resource for teachers and instructors. They can be used as a refresher for material that you haven't studied in years or at all. Many of the sites also include portals for educators. Most of the online courses break them up into individually sub-titled lectures. Instead of taking an entire course you can watch a specific lecture on a single topic or use the resources from the class (such as lecture slides, images readings, and assignments) in your class. The number of history courses available has grown dramatically.
Most of the courses on the sites below will allow you to access all its materials (videotaped lectures, materials, images, slides, etc.), but a few don't. The videotaped lectures may be only available when the course is scheduled. Courses may also only be available for a limited period.
Most of the online courses will require you to register, and they will most likely send your email. Typically, this process is pretty painless. Additionally, some organizations will also charge a fee if you need a certificate of completion from the site. For example, EdX.org charges fees ranging from $49-99 to get a verified certificate of completion. Other sites will ask for a donation to support their programs.
Future Learn, Coursera and edX are currently the best options from this list because they get their course from multiple universities. The Yale and MIT sites appear to lack full institutional support. There numerous also other providers and some may be better options than those listed here, but the world of online courses seems to be evolving. Unfortunately, history courses are not a primary part of their offerings. Most of the sites are focusing on skills such as IT specializations and computer programing.
- edX.org - edX.org has several history classes available from multiple universities across the including Columbia, Harvard, Purdue, Peking, and others. They have one of the widest selections of course.
- Future Learn History Courses - Future Learn has a focus on European and British History, and the courses are fairly eclectic (i.e., Hadrian's Wall, The Fall of the Roman Republic, and Why Opera Matters). As of January 2019, the site had 29 different courses available. They also have paid online degree programs for students.
- Coursera.org - Coursera.org is one of the largest providers of online courses in the world. It has 182 universities and organizations partnering with it. This feature allows Cousera to offer over 100 history or history-related courses. The courses offered are incredibly diverse. The courses include videos, readings, and quizzes. Some classes can be completed for free, but others are behind paywalls. You can either pay for courses individually or buy a monthly subscription.
- Udemy - Udemy is the largest online course provider in the world. They offer free courses, but most of them cost $9.99 or more. Their history section is relatively limited. Additionally, more than half of the classes are not in taught in English.
- MIT Open Courseware - MIT Open Courseware has numerous history courses, but they have not added any new courses since 2017. The courses are structured more like classes and are less user-friendly. The courses also do not appear to have videotaped lectures available after the course has finished. Still, the courses do have lecture slides and additional information for educators.
- Open Yale Courses History Courses - The Open Yale Courses offer free complete courses taught by Yale History professors, but it only has four history courses available.
Reacting to the Past is a teaching technique that instead of relying on lectures and notes, uses elaborate role-playing games based on classic texts that require students to play historical characters. Instead of observing a lecture, students are actively working within the confines of the philosophical and intellectual beliefs of the historical figures they are portraying. Reacting to the Past requires students to explore the complicated historical situations that people lived through. As part of the game, students prepare speeches, write papers, and other public presentations to try and win the game.
Reacting to the Past was created by Mark C. Carnes at Barnard College in the 1990s. So far, it has been implemented at hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States. High schools have also started introducing Reacting to the Past in the classroom. 30+ Reacting games have been published by W.W. Norton & Co., the University of North Carolina Press and the Reacting Consortium Press. In addition to the published games, there are over 100 games currently in development.
Unlike other sites on this list, Reacting to the Past requires preparation by teachers to implement it into the classroom successfully. Therefore, Reacting has numerous conferences to help teachers add it to their curriculum. The Reacting site has an article and several videos explaining how Reacting to the Past was incorporated into the Freshman curriculum at the University of Oregon.
Genealogy Explained has an excellent Guide for researching military records. While the guide focuses on searching military records for genealogical purposes, these records could be used for a number of different types of historical research projects. The article explains how to use the free FamilySearch.org service. The links on the guide go directly to the section on United States veterans.