Skip to main content
Substack logo on a smartphone

7 history Substacks you need to subscribe to

Image: T.Schneider /

Substack has shaken up the publishing world, providing a platform for writers to directly showcase their work to their biggest fans and dedicated online subscribers. If you’re a history buff, here are some of the best Substacks that should be on your radar.

1. History, Etc by Dan Jones

The author of bestseller books on everything from the Plantagenets to the Knights Templar, historian Dan Jones knows how to bring the medieval world to life. His Substack is informative, irreverent and enjoyably eclectic – it’s effectively a goody bag of reviews, opinion pieces and thoughtful reflections on all things history-related.

So, one day Dan will be giving his own takes on hot topics in the news – will AI replace history teachers? – and the next he’ll be highlighting a must-see history exhibition, delving into the stories of medieval monarchs, or shedding light on the geography of London in the Middle Ages. Dan genuinely enjoys engaging with subscribers, giving masterclasses on writing and conducting regular Q&A sessions.

2. A History of Mankind by David Roman

Journalist David Roman has been working on his ambitious, single-author history of mankind for decades, and thanks to his Substack you can dive right into this river of fascinating revelations and insights. It really does live up to its name, being the epic story of the evolution of all of us, right across the world.

You can read about the first Indo-European invasion of Mesopotamia in one entry, then get to know Ramesses II in another, before perhaps exploring what David calls the ‘Bronze Age Cold War’. Whether you’re interested in the history of monotheistic religions, mass-murdering Assyrian warlords or how the haiku was invented, this jam-packed Substack has it all.

3. Ælfgif-who? by Florence HR Scott

Women’s experiences have long been relegated to the margins of mainstream historical scholarship, but more and more historians are seeking to reclaim and retell the stories of women’s lives. One such historian is Florence HR Scott, whose Substack introduces us to droves of medieval women who deserve to have their stories told to every history buff.

They include Ælfgifu of Northampton, ‘the English woman remembered as a tyrannical ruler of Norway’, the mysterious ‘Trumpington Girl’ who was buried in an ornate bed, and Queen Bebba, one of the least-known monarchs in English history. The Substack also gets into the nitty gritty of what it takes to research these half-forgotten figures, with Florence interviewing other historians who share a passion for the subject.

4. Histories by Andrew Chapman

History journalist and magazine editor Andrew Chapman takes us on a magical mystery tour of the past in this fun Substack. He turns our attention away from all the big, iconic kings and queens to focus on smaller – but no less fascinating – people and moments throughout time.

We get the story of Clara the Rhino, who toured Europe in the 18th century and wound up in London. We get to read highly personal letters from a mother to her son that were sent in 1592. And if you’ve ever been curious to know what it was like to be a mountaineer dicing with death on a snowy peak in 1871, you’ll find out through a nail-biting account uncovered by Chapman.

5. The Colour of Time with Marina Amaral

Colourised photos can make us see historical scenes with a shock of recognition. When colourised, people who were once locked away in their impossibly distant black-and-white worlds suddenly look like our neighbours, our friends, and ourselves.

One of the world’s most renowned digital colourists is Marina Amaral, whose book The Colour of Time has been hailed as ‘breathtaking’ and ‘astonishing’. You can discover her work on her Substack, together with riveting commentary which explains the scenes you’re looking at.

A group of tired-looking men taking a rest in some woods? They were the search party sent to find Agatha Christie when the crime writer went inexplicably missing. The mugshots of a rather wry-looking concentration camp inmate? It’s Witold Pilecki, the Polish soldier who deliberately allowed himself to be arrested and sent to Auschwitz to gather intelligence on the Holocaust. And there’s plenty more incredible, instantly iconic imagery to enjoy in this Substack.

6. Sweary History by James Fell

Self-styled ‘sweary historian’ James Fell lives up to his billing with a hilariously profanity-riddled take on… well, just about anything that takes his fancy throughout history. His Substack is breezy, cheeky and irreverent throughout – his entry on legendary WWI flying ace the Red Baron opens with the line: ‘You have to be pretty special to have a pop song featuring Snoopy made about you.' His analysis of Martin Luther and the rise of Protestantism contains the aside: ‘Some became chill and started ordaining gays.'

The tone (and the potty-mouth) won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if a light, fun, X-rated read is what you’re in the mood for, James is your guy. Plus, he has an endearingly optimistic and righteous view of the past, reminding us that: ‘Humanity is not endless suck. There is inspiration to be found amidst the atrocities.’

7. British History by Philippa Brewell

Philippa Brewell is a highly experienced historical tour guide, and much of her Substack is rather like a virtual tour of intriguing places throughout Britain. She takes us to an unassuming parish church that somehow survived Henry VIII’s devastating dissolution of the monasteries, explores the tomb of Arthur Tudor (Henry’s older brother, who didn’t survive to inherit the throne), and deciphers the letters of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Throw in lots of interviews and Q&As, and this is a highly personal and incredibly informative overview of the most tumultuous periods that shaped our nation.