Identifying the key debates between historians on central topics is an important way of engaging students with their studies. A simple way of doing this is to direct them to the comments underneath YouTube videos. These tend to fall into two categories: those that are angry, which give an indication of the passion which the topic generates; and those which are more measured, which are useful for identifying some of the key evidence that historians use on either side of the argument.

Case Study: The Spanish Civil War

In my first lesson on the Causes of the Spanish Civil War, I directed students to watch a short video clip about the exhumation of Franco last year, and then they used the comments underneath to get an idea of how divisive a figure he is, and why. They seemed to find it a really engaging ‘hook’ – this screenshot gives an idea of how you might try something similar:

Taking it further

Students should be encouraged to research further to identify which particular historians have argued the perspectives provided by the commentators underneath the video.

Students could (politely!) reply to some of the comments they disagree with, making sure they back up their points with evidence.