10 best history apps for iPhone and iPad

Best apps for history buffs
The best iOS apps for history buffs

The days when history was considered a lifeless, irrelevant subject are long gone. Today, people understand the importance of history, both from a global perspective and in terms of our everyday lives. History is about who we are and where we came from, and when it comes to bringing the past alive, your iPhone and iPad are the perfect tools for the job.

History apps allow you to combine the best of all worlds, giving you access to all the key details of a past period while allowing you to explore it through photos, video and even interactive 3D. If television made history popular again, your iPad allows it to express itself fully.

Despite the fact that apps were made for showcasing history, there aren't that many historical apps out there. Thankfully, the emphasis has been on quality rather than quantity, as the ten apps in this roundup demonstrate.

Some allow you to explore the period with the aid of text, photos and videos, neatly arranged in a logical, temporal order. There are also apps that invite you to re-visit the past and explore historic locations, whether it's the Giza Plateau in Egypt with its collection of tombs, pyramids and the Sphinx, or the city of Rome, all in breathtaking, interactive 3D.

Throw in some useful reference apps covering everything from the British monarchy to a list of museum and archaeological sites worth visiting, and you have a collection that will appear to every type of historian, from academics to hobbyists.

We've got slices of history for every one of you to enjoy!

1. Timeline World War 2 with Dan Snow

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A complete and detailed multimedia guide to the tragic world conflict

Price: £6.99 / $9.99
Works: with iPad


Dan Snow's TV series covering all of World War II was a ratings smash, and this app, although developed in conjunction with it, is far more than a simple companion app. The app might not yield the same amount of detail as a history book would, but it's certainly more engaging, and easier to dip in and out of. And despite the lack of depth compared to an academic book, Timeline World War II does more than simply provide an overview of the subject.

As its name implies, all of the events are organised by date, accessible through a timeline view that can be enlarged for more daily detail, or shrunk for more of an overview. You can also switch to a map view, which makes it easy to see how the war first spread and then developed at any point during the conflict. And thanks to a handy - and surprisingly comprehensive - set of filters, you can focus on specific places or aspects of the war, too.

The actual facts aren't too heavy on detail - short, telegram-like missives in some cases, longer typewritten notes in others - and many come accompanied with both photos and video clips (over 100 of the latter). Some video clips even offer you the choice of listening to the original soundtrack or choosing to hear Dan Snow's analysis instead.

Like many of the apps in this roundup, the app requires an awful lot of space on your iPad - 750MB in fact - but this helps demonstrates its sheer depth and breadth. An iPhone version is in development, as is Timeline Battle Castles.

2. Virtual History - Roma

An interactive tour of ancient the Roman Empire's ancient capital city

Price: £5.99 / $8.99
Works with: iPad


This takes you on an tour of ancient Rome through the medium of an interactive magazine. Rather than present its wealth of information about Rome as a series of dry facts, static images and the odd bit of video, Virtual History - Roma throws in some groundbreaking interactive tools such as the bubble viewer, which lets you explore the ancient city in 3D by moving around and tilting your iPad. You'll also find 3D objects to manipulate and overlays allowing you to see how parts of Rome changed over time.