We preview the best new apps, websites and podcasts for fans of history. From Dan Snow’s Second World War iPad app to a history podcast with a difference, there’s bound to be something here to whet your digital appetite
Dan Snow takes a giant leap into the tablet age
iPad, £5.99 (promotional price)
In recent press interviews Dan Snow has described himself as a zealous convert to the iPad format. Here he takes a giant leap into the tablet age with a slick Second World War app that’s based around a comprehensive timeline and dynamic map. The timeline text has been taken from existing books on the conflict; Snow’s input comes through audio commentaries to a selection of British Pathé newsreels, and video introductions to each year of the conflict.
One of the strengths of this app is the way it takes full advantage of the format. The timeline, though slightly confusing at first, can be filtered by all manner of themes, with just a few taps. Meanwhile the map allows you to watch the war progressing across the globe, as alliances are formed and territories switch hands.
The story of the war has, of course, been told countless times before and this app is not especially ground-breaking in its history content. It is nevertheless a departure to see
a leading historian embrace this medium so wholeheartedly. With Timeline World War 2, Snow undoubtedly has set the bar high.
Great web resource on World War Two
Originally only available through a paid subscription, this tremendous Second World War website is now free to access.
It is the creation of the award-winning historian and filmmaker Laurence Rees who has made good use of his broadcasting experience and extensive contacts to produce dozens of videos and audio testimonies.
You can discover what it was like to be a British soldier in Dunkirk, a Soviet NKVD officer or a survivor of the Holocaust, and gain context through interviews with a number of first-rate historians. Teachers and students should find much to interest them here, as indeed will the wider public.
Not your average historical podcast
Available on iTunes and from other podcast providers. www.dancarlin.com
Dan Carlin, the man behind this podcast, is not your average historical broadcaster. Few others, you suspect, would preface their output with the word ‘hardcore’.
His approach is decidedly different: delivering extended monologues – several hours long in some cases – where he develops ideas across countries and centuries. In the wrong hands it could be a recipe for disaster, but Carlin’s evident enthusiasm, deep thinking and unconventional look at the past make for some really intriguing programmes.
Whether he’s discussing the fall of Rome or the 20th-century Red Scares, Carlin is always worth a listen. Just be careful if you search for it on Google.
Must-read letters from the past
This is a rather lovely website that rewards frequent visitors with regular, mostly daily, updates. The concept is simple: the editor seeks out interesting letters from the past and reproduces them on his site, along with a short commentary.
The 1865 letter from a former slave, Jourdon Anderson, to his old master, Colonel PH Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee is probably one of the highlights (it shot round Twitter and Facebook when it went up on the website in January of this year). The final sentence of that letter gives a good sense of the sentiments of the one-time slave: “Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”