The Best YouTube Channels for Military History

The history of war is the history of the world. Here are the five best channels for animated war history from the ancient world to the Napoleonic Era.
The Best YouTube Channels for Military History
This mosaic of Alexander the Great was constructed from thousands of miniscule chunks of colored stone and glass. This portion of the mosaic is from the larger Battle of Issus mosaic and is over 2000 years old. (Public Domain)
Dustin Bass
2/26/2024
Updated:
2/26/2024
0:00

To understand the world, one must understand conflict, and conflict on the grandest scale. Peoples, nations, civilizations took their shapes predominantly as a result of wars. Although most, if not all, of classical education, which focuses on the ancient world, has been jettisoned by the modern American public school system, understanding the conflicts between nations and empires over the millennia is as important today as it ever was and ever will be.

Of course, classical education isn’t just about war. It includes philosophy, religion, economics, literature, and history, and it reaches all the way up to the modern doorstep of the Enlightenment thinkers—thinkers who heavily influenced the American Founding Fathers. But for our purposes, we will stick with war—from the ancient world to the Napoleonic Era―and how learning about it in the most intimate way possible is still possible. How? The answer may surprise you.

The following is a list of the best animated military history YouTube channels available. I’ll discuss why they are great―from interactive maps to graphic animation to intricate information to narration―and which ones stand out against the others for certain wars. (By the way, I’ve saved my favorite channel for last.)

‘See you on the battlefield!’

Uploading its first podcast in 2018, “HistoryMarche” has covered numerous conflicts in no chronological order. As with most video channels, the quality increases over time. “HistoryMarche” launched with top level quality and with great animation, which includes terrain, oceans and seas, corps units, and visual markers showing the faces of military leaders and national colors or symbols; maps with names of towns, states, and empires, that are multicolored to represent borders; easy-to-follow movements between warring factions or states; and the solid narration of David McCallion.

In recent years, a touch of humor has been added to the graphics. The channel covers many wars starting in third-century-B.C. Rome and ending with a few recent 20th-century videos. The best “HistoryMarche” projects focus on: Roman history (the Punic Wars, specifically on fighting Hannibal; and “Caesar’s Civil War”), the Muslim Conquest (A.D. 624 to A.D. 1578), and the Hundred Years’ War. The 19-video project on Hannibal is a can’t miss.

HistoryMarche: 998,ooo subscribers, 271 videos
A depiction of the battle between Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, in one of the Punic Wars. (Public Domain)
A depiction of the battle between Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, in one of the Punic Wars. (Public Domain)

All Things Military ... and More

With more than 1,000 videos, you’ll be busy for quite some time if you choose to rummage through the entire “Kings and Generals” channel. This channel launched in 2017 as a collaboration between YouTubers Commisar Bro, Malay Archer, and OfficiallyDevin. Not only does this channel take the viewer through the military history of ancient civilizations, like Greece, China, and Rome, but they also guide the viewer through the literal wonders of the ancient world.

There are currently 65 videos that discuss various aspects of the ancient world, including “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” the two-and-a-half-hour documentary “Full History of the Ancient Britons,” and the “History of Thebes.”

If you want to take a break from history, there is a 10-part series on “The Lord of the Rings” and a five-part series on “Game of Thrones.”

When it comes to deep dives, “Kings and Generals” doesn’t mess around. There are 46 videos on the Ottoman Empire, 21 videos on the First Crusade (the Second Crusade project has recently started), a large project on Chinese history, and, a somewhat rarity among these types of channels, the history of pre-Columbian Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations.

The artwork and animation is incredible, including the mapping, which truly brings the history to life. The narration, primarily conducted by OfficiallyDevin, can seem robotic, but it’s no dealbreaker.

Kings and Generals: 3.41 million subscribers, 1,118 videos
A depiction of the Aztec priests conducting a human sacrifice ritual where the victim's heart was removed while they were still alive. (Public Domain)
A depiction of the Aztec priests conducting a human sacrifice ritual where the victim's heart was removed while they were still alive. (Public Domain)

Simply ... History

You read that right. Only 32 videos, but more than 8 million subscribers. Stuart Webster, the creator of “OverSimplified,” has apparently struck gold with his creative methods. His first history video was released in 2016 and was, somehow, an immediate success. His most successful video has an astounding 82 million views (truly unprecedented in the category of history videos). Most of the videos are post-Napoleonic, but “OverSimplified” does cover pre-Napoleonic eras, including the French Revolution, Henry VIII, and, most recently, The Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome.

Through narration and graphics, Mr. Webster institutes a lot of dark humor, which undoubtedly contributes to the success of his videos. I wouldn’t, however, consider these deep dives. The humor is probably too dark for elementary-age kids, but it is perfect for teenagers. It’s probably the best way to get your teenager interested in history, which is the most important contribution from “OverSimplified.”

OverSimplified: 8.27 million subscribers, 32 videos

Well-Narrated History

In 2019, “Knowledgia” launched its channel. These videos primarily use mapping and visual markers with the faces of figures rather than animation. The animation is limited. The narration, conducted by Callum Janes, is better than most.

“Knowledgia” often takes interesting routes to discuss historical subjects, such as its 25 videos focusing on the collapses of nations and empires, like Sparta, Sweden, Saladin’s Ayyubid Empire, and, though not ancient, the Soviet Union.

Another historical route is through religion, with its projects on the Crusades, Islam, and the Protestant Reformation. “Knowledgia” doesn’t possess the humor of “OverSimplified” and “HistoryMarche” or the extensive animation of the others, but it is still a channel with good solid historical information. The scriptwriting, music, easy-to-follow mapping, and thoroughly articulated narration makes the channel a great place to learn.
Knowledgia: 1.62 million subscribers, 240 videos
Saladin established the Ayyubid Dynasty in the late 12th century, and the sultanate would last for almost 100 years. (Public Domain)
Saladin established the Ayyubid Dynasty in the late 12th century, and the sultanate would last for almost 100 years. (Public Domain)

History at Its Best

For my money, “Epic History TV” is the standard-bearer for animated history channels. Although the channel launched before the others, 2015, and doesn’t have as many videos (except for “OverSimplified”), there is a reason for it. Each video is so thoroughly researched, even going so far as to conduct direct collaborations with Osprey Publishing, a major military history publisher. The artwork, animation, and mapping is arguably the best among them all, and the music and scriptwriting indeed stands above the rest.

If you’ve ever watched one of the videos, there is one aspect that stands out immediately: the narration by Charles Nove. The creator of “Epic History TV,” Toby Groom, did a true service to the channel and his viewers by choosing Mr. Nove, arguably one of the best narrators I’ve listened to on any platform.

The projects created by Mr. Groom are definite deep dives, and none more so than his projects on Alexander the Great; the Byzantine Era of Justinian and his general, Belisarius; and the Napoleonic era. “Epic History TV” goes into great detail about the strategies and tactical movements of the Greeks (or Macedonians, to be particular); the Persians; the Byzantine armies and their enemies (like the Sassanids and Vandals); Napoleon’s French armies, and those of the numerous coalitions, during the battles.

Mr. Groom also provides deep dives on specific items, like Napoleon’s marshals and Great Britain’s most famous warship, the HMS Victory. The Napoleon videos, some done in collaboration with the aforementioned “HistoryMarche,” was how I was introduced to the channel, and from then on, I was hooked, even watching the same videos numerous times.

If you could choose only one YouTube history channel to watch, this would be it.

Epic History TV: 2.23 million subscribers, 166 videos
Great Britain's most famous warship, the HMS Victory, has captured the hearts and minds of civilians and military alike. (Public Domain)
Great Britain's most famous warship, the HMS Victory, has captured the hearts and minds of civilians and military alike. (Public Domain)
Note to the reader: Most of these videos do have their sources cited in the video description at the end, like a bibliography, which can be useful for further research.
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Dustin Bass is an author and co-host of The Sons of History podcast. He also writes two weekly series for The Epoch Times: Profiles in History and This Week in History.
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