Develop your skills as an historian
1) Read books & journal articles
Read, think, write and talk about whatever you find interesting about the past.
Work out what you think about what you read. For instance, ask yourself: what is the author’s argument? Is it convincing? Why (or why not)? What evidence does the author use to make their argument? What is missing from their approach to the past? What else do historians need to find out? What primary sources would enable historians to understand this topic better?
You might find history books that inspire you by asking your history teacher for recommendations, visiting your local public library, or finding out about books that have just been published in history podcasts or newspaper book reviews. You can also look at:
Access to Research - provides free access to many academic journal articles, so that you can search for the latest research on whatever aspect of history interests you. -https://accesstoresearch.org.uk/search
JSTOR - a searchable digital library of journal articles and books. If your school or local library doesn’t have access, you can normally register for an individual researcher account to read 6 free articles per month. -https://www.jstor.org/
Write about your ideas and talk with other people about whatever you find interesting.
Apply these same critical skills to everything you watch, listen to, or visit.
2) Listen to history podcasts
- Faculty of History Recordings
- BBC podcasts - Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’, ‘The Long View’, ‘Document’; BBC World Service ‘Witness’; Radio 3 ‘Free Thinking’, all available via BBC Sounds.
- BBC History Extra podcasts: http://www.historyextra.com/podcasts
- Historical Association podcasts: https://www.history.org.uk/podcasts
- Royal Historical Society podcasts: https://royalhistsoc.org/category/podcasts/
- Gresham College lectures: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch
- TED talks: https://www.ted.com/
- Intelligence Squared debates: https://www.intelligencesquared.com/watch-and-listen/
- Malcolm Gladwell ‘Revisionist History’ podcasts: http://revisionisthistory.com/about
3) Visit museums, archives, or other historic sites
- Museums, archives and galleries: https://museumcrush.org/
- BBC Arts https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts
- British Library primary sources and resources: https://www.bl.uk/learning/online-resources
- National Archives primary sources and resources: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/
4) Engage with the news
- ‘The Conversation’ - academic research relevant to news stories: https://theconversation.com/uk
- The Guardian ‘The long read’ - in-depth reporting: https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/the-long-read
- History & Policy - connections between history and current policy-making: http://www.historyandpolicy.org/
5) Take part in outreach activities
- Oxford University outreach events – free events for which students or teachers can apply: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/increasing-access
- Oxplore: the Home of Big Questions – explore ideas and debates online with researchers at Oxford University: https://oxplore.org/
These exercises allow you to explore the primary sources that shape Oxford historians’ latest research and teaching. We have also suggested online resources that enable you to develop your own interests in the past and to do original historical research. These research skills will also help you to feel confident when reading a primary source in the History Admissions Test or as part of an interview.