YouTubers specialising in history: new knowledge brokers

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BNP Paribas Historical Archives

BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Since 2014, more and more historically-themed channels have been springing up on the YouTube video platform. They are presented by young film-makers with a desire to share their passion with the general public. Their offbeat approaches, original angles, reliability, critical thinking, popularisation and openness to discussion are the key foundations of the little revolution that YouTubers are creating in the field of historical knowledge sharing.

Content about history is king on YouTube! About a hundred channels are dedicated to it. The most popular in France include “Nota Bene”, “C’est une autre histoire”, “Let’s Talk Y-Stoire”, “Questions History”, “Brandon’s Stories”, “Confessions d’Histoire”, “Pour la petite Histoire” and “Virago”. Although the world created by each YouTuber is different, all these initiatives testify to the same desire to share a love of history with as many people as possible, and to popularise knowledge. For example, “Nota Bene“, the most-watched YouTube channel with over 740,000 subscribers, is a textbook example of a history-loving YouTuber’s approach: humour, offbeat topics, accessible tone, educational intention, openness to discussion, and staging of the story.

BNP Paribas Historical Archives
BNP Paribas Historical Archives

On his channel, Benjamin Brillaud (aka “Nota Bene”) is likely to tackle subjects as diverse as the unusual deaths of kings, the private lives of popes, the history of the druids or Japanese history. In terms of method, he always makes sure to seek advice or confirmation from historians during production.

BNP Paribas Historical Archives
BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Although some critics (mainly from the world of academia) sometimes bemoan their lack of expertise, the film-makers on Google’s video platform are gradually starting to build bridges with researchers and cultural institutions. Consider, for example, the initiative taken by the Louvre Museum in 2016, which gave carte blanche to three YouTubers – Nota Bene, Axolot and the Fossoyeur de films – to revisit its history and major works.

And this summer, three historians were in attendance at the Les Historiques festival in Montbazon, the only French history-based event to have been created by YouTubers.

In the same spirit of dialogue, BNP Paribas’s Archives & History department has called on a YouTuber specialising in musicology to highlight the life of one of its bankers, who was also a musician. We also had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a group of YouTubers as part of our involvement in the Historia- Vivre l’Histoire festival in February 2018.

As part of the Edmond Rostand 2018 festival, celebrating the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his birth and the centenary of his death, BNP Paribas wished to honour Edmond’s uncle Alexis Rostand, who was not only a President of the Comptoir national d’escompte de Paris – a forerunner to the BNP – but also a musician.

Discover the unique history of Alexis Rostand, musician and president of a banking forerunner of a banking forerunner of BNP PARIBAS, with youtuber SCHERZANDO

About Scherzando

17,000 subscribers on the YouTube platform know her under the pseudonym of Scherzando. The name is a hint from Marguerite Pleintel (her real name) referencing a direction which appears on musical scores indicating a need to play in a light, playful manner. On her channel, she highlights the hidden links between the music of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and today.

A few history channels to follow on YouTube

« C’est une autre histoire », a channel with a different take on ancient history
« Nota Bene », a show that tries to understand History (with a capital H) in a light, accessible way
« Parlons Y-Stoire », explorations of the past by a history and geography teacher
« Confessions d’Histoire », history explained by people who were there
« Virago », extraordinary portraits of women who made history
« Brandon’s Stories », discover forgotten places in France’s history

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