TED Ed History Videos to Use with Students in Class

The purpose of this post is to share this interesting playlist from TED Ed called TED History vs. that you can use with your students in class. The videos are especially ideal for history classes, but they can also be incorporated into any other subject area. Each of the featured TED Ed history videos covers a popular (often controversial) historical figure such as Genghis Khan, Cleopatra, Vladimir Lenin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sigmund Freud, Christopher Columbus, Richard Nixon, Augustus and more.

TED Ed History


TED Ed story videos are accompanied by ready-made lessons to integrate into your teaching. The standard structure of TED Ed lessons is, as you probably know, composed of the Watch section where students watch the video lesson, Think (contains multiple choice questions to check student understanding), Dig Deeper (contains additional resources and materials to help students learning more about the topic covered in the video lesson) and the Discuss section that offers guided discussions for students. Of course, you can always customize the content of the TED Ed lesson and even create a new one to share with your students.

1. History vs. Genghis Khan – Alex Gendler

“He was one of the most fearsome warlords who ever lived, leading an unstoppable conquest across the Eurasian continent. But was Genghis Khan an evil barbarian or a unifier who paved the way for the modern world? Alex Gendler brings this controversial figure to justice in History vs Genghis Khan.”

Watch the video Access full TED Ed lesson

2. History vs. Cleopatra – Alex Gendler

“She was the most notorious woman in ancient history, a queen who captivated not one, but two of Rome’s greatest generals. But was she just a skilled seductress—or a great ruler in her own right? Alex Gendler brings this controversial figure to justice in History vs. Cleopatra.”

3. History vs. Vladimir Lenin – Alex Gendler

“Vladimir Lenin overthrew Russian Czar Nicholas II and founded the Soviet Union, forever changing the course of Russian politics. But was he a hero who overthrew an oppressive tyranny or a villain who replaced it with another? Alex Gendler poses this controversial figure before the court, explore both sides of a nearly century-long debate.”

4. History vs. Napoleon Bonaparte – Alex Gendler

“After the French Revolution broke out in 1789, Europe was thrown into chaos. The monarchs of neighboring countries, fearing that they would share the fate of Louis XVI, attacked the new republic, while extremism and mistrust between factions at home led to bloodshed. In between out of all this conflict emerged Napoleon. But did he save the revolution or destroy it? Alex Gendler brings Napoleon to justice.”

5. History vs. Sigmund Freud – Todd Dufresne

“Working in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, he began his career as a neurologist before pioneering the discipline of psychoanalysis, and his influence towers over all other psychologists in the public eye. But did Sigmund Freud right in human nature? And were his methods scientific? Todd Dufresne puts this controversial figure to the test in History vs. Sigmund Freud”.

6. History vs. Che Guevara – Alex Gendler

“His face is recognized around the world – the young medical student who became a revolutionary icon. But was Che Guevara a heroic champion of the poor, or a ruthless warlord who left a legacy of oppression? Alex Gendler brings this controversial figure to justice in history vs. Che Guevara.”

7. History vs. Christopher Columbus – Alex Gendler

“Many people in the US and Latin America have grown up celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage. But was he an intrepid explorer who brought two worlds together, or a ruthless exploiter who brought colonialism and slavery? And did he even discover America Alex Gendler puts Columbus on the stand in History vs. Christopher Columbus.”

8. History vs. Richard Nixon – Alex Gendler

“The presidency of the United States is often said to be one of the most powerful positions in the world. But of all the American presidents who have been accused of abusing that power, only one has left office as a result. Does Richard Nixon deserve to be remembered for more than the scandal that ended his presidency? Alex Gendler puts this disgraced president’s legacy on trial.”

9. History vs. Andrew Jackson – James Fester

“Andrew Jackson was both loved and loathed during his presidency. In this imaginary courtroom, you can be the jury deliberating and weighing Jackson’s part in the bounty system, the economic depression, and the Indian Removal Act, as well as his patriotism and the pressures of the presidency. James Fester explores , how time shapes our relationships with controversial historical figures.”

10. History vs. Augustus – Peta Greenfield & Alex Gendler

“His reign marked the beginning of one of history’s greatest empires … and the end of one of its first republics. Was Rome’s first emperor a visionary leader who guaranteed his civilization’s place in history, or a tyrant who destroyed its core values? Peta Greenfield and Alex Gendler brought this controversial figure to justice in History vs. Augustus.”

11. History vs. Henry VIII – Mark Robinson and Alex Gendler

“He was a powerful king whose break with the Church of Rome would change the course of English history forever. But was he a charismatic reformer who freed his subjects from a corrupt establishment or a bullying tyrant who used Parliament for his own personal gain? Mark. Robinson and Alex Gendler brought this controversial figure to justice in History vs. Henry VIII.”

12. History vs. Tamerlane the Conqueror – Stephanie Honchell Smith

“He was born in the 1330s in the Chaghatayid Khanate, formerly the Mongol Empire. On the steppe, he rose from a humble sheep thief to become one of history’s greatest conquerors, uniting almost all of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran under his rule But was he a great statesman or a bloodthirsty tyrant? Stephanie Honchell Smith puts this controversial figure on trial in History vs. Tamerlane.”

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