How can I be a historian?

Home learning focus

In this lesson, learn some of the skills needed to study history.

This lesson includes:

  • three videos

  • an activity to summarise the skills learnt


In this short animation find out what skills you need to become a historian and whether or not all sources are reliable.

Being a historian is surprisingly similar to being a detective. Find out what skills you need to be a historian and whether or not all sources are reliable.

History is all around us.

Look out of the window. What is the oldest thing you can see?

To be a historian, you have to act as a detective.

Search for clues about the past and put them together to find out what happened.

Who can I ask about the past?

Older people can tell you a lot about what life was like in the past.

A good way to find out what someone remembers is to interview them.

Watch this short film to find out more about interviewing someone.

When you interview someone, it's important to be prepared. You need to know what type of questions to ask, and how to interpret the answers.

You’ll get more detailed answers if you ask questions about particular topics, such as toys, transport, or school life.

Record your interview, so you can listen to those details again.

Make a list of questions to ask. Include some that start with each of these words: how, when, why, what, who and where.

Closed questions, which have simple factual answers, help to get people talking - but you usually won't get a lot of information.

"How old were you when you started school?" is a closed question.

Open questions are ones that ask people to give their views. They encourage people to talk about their feelings.

"What did you like in your first classroom?" is an open question.

Find out below how to use an archive, a place where historical material is collected and stored.

Joe Crowley explains how to use an archive


There are lots of fun ways to practice your historical skills online and offline.

Here are a few you could try.

Activity 1

Historical evidence around the home

A great way for children to learn about historical evidence is to use actual objects from around the house.

Give children a range of objects from the past, it could be an old photo or a holiday souvenir.

Together make a list of questions about your objects. How could you answer them?

Activity 2

Historical sources in your hometown

Your home town is full of historical sources and places where you can find clues about the past.

There are six sources just in this street. Can you find them?

Did you find all six sources? You can click on the church, the war memorial, the sign, the statue, the library and the museum.

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS1 History
Primary games