The best historical audiobooks to listen to right now

Prefer to listen to your history books rather than read them? Here are the best historical audiobooks you should know about, curated by BBC World Histories editor Matt Elton

Box cover of Encounters with Victoria by Lucy Worsley

Here are the best historical books that have made the jump to audio, from famous royals to intrepid adventurers. Listen to extraordinary tales of heroism and tragedy, social commentary, documentaries and the occasional novel…

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Encounters with Victoria: Queen Victoria’s Reign Through Significant Meetings

By Lucy Worsley

BBC Audio, £22.74, narrated by Lucy Worsley, 2 hours 14 mins

Historian and broadcaster Lucy Worsley brings her inimitable style to this ten-part look at the relationships that shaped the life and reign of Queen Victoria. Adapted from a BBC radio series, each episode focuses on a point in time in which a particular person – such as Lord Melbourne – came to the fore. Experts including AN Wilson, Mark Bostridge and Helen Rappaport offer their insights along the way.


The World Beneath Their Feet

By Scott Ellsworth

Hodder & Stoughton, £21.99, narrated by Scott Ellsworth, 13 hours 33 minutes

Box cover of The World Beneath Their Feet by Scott Ellsworth

From 1931 onward, waves of climbers, athletes, scientists and eccentrics set out to conquer the Himalayas – the foreboding mountain range that features many of the world’s tallest peaks. Its very highest, Everest, was successfully ascended by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, but what of the other stories? This retelling of those, often fatal, attempts explores what drove such missions. Dynamically read by its author, Scott Ellsworth, this is a vibrant glimpse into a period of wild adventure.


Prisoners of History: What Monuments to the Second World War Tell Us About Ourselves

By Keith Lowe

William Collins, £10.49, narrated by Keith Lowe, 7 hours 40 minutes

Box cover of Prisoners of History: What Monuments to the Second World War Tell Us About Ourselves by Keith Lowe

World War II ended 75 years ago, but its legacy is still with us: in how nations view themselves and others, as well as in physical landscapes. Here, Keith Lowe explores what war memorials in locations such as London, Berlin, Moscow and Hiroshima tell us about the conflict and its place in the 21st century.


Nancy Wake: World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy

By Russell Braddon

Brilliance Audio, £20.20, narrated by Nico Evers-Swindell, runtime 9 hours 5 minutes

Box cover of Nancy Wake: World War Two's Most Rebellious Spy by Russell Braddon

Daring rescue missions; frantic escapes; desperate losses of those closest to her: the story of World War II spy Nancy Wake has all of this and more, in this dynamic telling of Russell Brandon’s recent biography. “A rebel, always laughing, and very, very feminine,” the first chapter opens, and that’s a fair summation of a woman who became a key figure in the French Resistance and who helped Allied airmen escape the clutches of the Nazis.


Making Our Way Home

By Blair Imani

Random House Audio, £16.88, narrated by Tay Zonday, Blair Imani and Patrisse Cullors, runtime 5 hours 36 minutes

Box cover of Making Our Way Home by Blair Imani

Spanning the decades between 1916 and 1970, the so-called Great Migration saw six million African-Americans move from the southern US to escape poverty and racism and begin new lives elsewhere. It was a huge cultural and social shift, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. Author Blair Imani sketches the story, together with fellow activist Patrisse Cullors and voice actor Tay Zonday. It’s an absorbing story.


Night and Day

By Virginia Woolf

MuseumAudioBooks.com, £28.08, narrated by Laura Orlando, runtime 19 hours 21 minutes

Box cover of Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

First published in 1919, Virginia Woolf’s second novel explores what was then the very topical issue of women’s suffrage, the fight for which was still ongoing in the United Kingdom at the time of its writing. Following the lives and loves of four interrelated characters – poets, lawyers, campaigners – all of whom are single and questioning what to do next, it’s astute and wryly humorous. This audiobook retelling brings the world of Edwardian London vividly to life.

Fancy watching something instead? Find our full guide to the best history TV and radio programmes airing in the UK each week here and the best shows available via streaming services here

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We update this page regularly, so keep checking back for new recommendations of what to listen to. Last updated 23 March 2020