The Top Ten Revision Techniques You May Not Have Tried Yet

Student revising

Here, I don’t want to dive into the full-on super serious revision techniques. You can check out my essential revision resources list for that.

What I want to show you are my top ten quick-fire revision techniques for improving your ability to revise which maybe you haven’t tried yet. My aim? To make your exam revision just that little bit easier.

Top Ten Revision Techniques – Quick Fire


Use Times New Roman in your typed notes. Apparently it’s the fastest to read and provides less stress on your brain.


Positive thinking. Which thought’s going to make you more productive a) “I’m never going to understand this it’s impossible” or b) “I find this topic a challenge but I know if I mastered this first section there’s nothing stopping me from doing the rest.” Don’t be your own worst critic because let’s face it, you’ve got enough on.


Flashcards that are written in a way someone else can help you. It’s great to have flashcards written with codes, squiggles and underlines that only you know. But, how powerful for your memorising if there’s a set where you have to say answers out loud to someone quizzing you.


Calming sounds. Some people find music a help (I find it confuses me and I start writing down lyrics) but if you find revision stressful and get stressed your brain is not going to remember as well. Try classical music or sounds like rain, the sea and swirling winds too. If it seems stupid. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.


Do some kinetic learning. And by this I mean memorise whilst moving around. You don’t have to jump on a treadmill and run 10K but studies have shown incorporating movement, like walking, whilst trying to revise helps you retain information and keep calm.


Try the one hour rule. Improve your chances of recall by looking at your notes one hour after you’ve written them.


Create visual associations in unusual places. You’ve probably got a bed or desk covered in papers and post-its. You’re more likely to remember that key date if it’s on a pink flashcard in the fridge or the yellow flashcard with the quote on next to the teabags.


Write what you think as well as what’s being said. Don’t just parrot out what you’ve read or re-write your notes out hundreds of times. You don’t know how the exam question will be phrased. You don’t want a blind panic because you only know how to answer a question about the Russian Revolution in a specific way. By understanding the information rather than just memorising it you will be able to adapt and overcome on the day.


Be honest if you don’t understand something. Don’t waste hours trying to learn a concept in five books or pages or notes that don’t make sense (and didn’t at the time either!) Ask someone to explain it to you again. It’s ok.


Use the ‘Generation Effect’ – you can commit information to your memory much easier if you talk out loud than just keep writing things down. Find out more about this in my previous post.

I hope you enjoyed these top ten research techniques and that there were a few you hadn’t come across. If you have any techniques that work well do share them in the comments below and don’t forget to check out these essential resources if you’re studying GCSE History to take you to the next level.

As ever, if you have any subjects you would like to see covered get in touch I love to hear from you.

Catch-up soon


SEO – what is it exactly and why does it matter? Top marketing tips for bloggers


Today, Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, can feel a bit five years ago or retro. But, actually, it remains a really, albeit slightly cumbersome, part of having a successful history blog.

If you don’t know what SEO is (no judgement), then Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of increasing the traffic or visits to your history blog organically and by that I mean in an unpaid way.

Now, to some the science and detail behind SEO is uber fascinating but to many compared with IG stories and researching amazing blog posts, it’s a dull as anything. But, don’t skip it for the shiny stuff because hey you want your stuff to be found right?

Still on the fence? Here’s a little more about how SEO works…

Think back to the last time you Google searched or open a tab and do it right now. You type in a word or couple of words and a list of possibilities to click on came up. That happens because Google, a search engine, is an index site listing everything under those words; and that’s the SE part.

The O, as in optimisation, is maximising certain things and opportunities within your blog. When the clever systems send Google spiders out there, we want them to find your content and list it in that index when someone searches for what you blog about.

SEO Marketing Techniques for Bloggers

So, what are the techniques to get you listed on search engines and found by visitors? I’m going to base my advice around a fictional blog about The Battle of Hastings:

– Make sure you have an SEO friendly domain name and blog name (if different) like ‘All About The Battle of Hastings Blog’
– Select some keywords, Battle of Hastings + 1066 + King William the Conqueror. Write your blogs with these keywords in strategic places; the title, the url, sub-headings and the first paragraph
– My main advice is don’t try to be all things to all men on each post. Be specific. If your blog post is just about William the Conqueror, that phrase should dominate at every point it can without looking like keyword stuffing.
– Use internal links to send people to other pages in your blog – this helps the spiders crawl around your blog and list your pages
– When you use images give them a file name, alt text and caption with your keyword in it.

And here are some marketing techniques to improve your SEO…

– Add the ability for people to easily share your blog page and spread it around the web. Sometimes we focus too much on ‘contact me’ rather than ‘share this’ I use WordPress Ultimate Social Media Icons Plugins, it’s free and does both. Also, share to your social media accounts directly from your blog.
– Make sure your blog loads quickly, is to read and navigate.
– Get yourself mentioned elsewhere on the internet – social media, Pinterest or guest blog backlinks. These all prick up the ears of the web spiders (do spiders have ears? ) so generate some noise about your posts and blogs!
– Increase the amount of traffic you are getting. I know it’s a bit mean this one but the more visitors to your blog from whatever platform or email campaign the better.

Don’t worry, SEO will start to come naturally…

The more you apply these principles to regular blog tasks such as generating your post titles, writing your paragraphs, uploading your images and growing traffic the more you will naturally create SEO friendly content.

There’s no magic formula to get you onto page one at the click of a button but please don’t dismiss the basic principles of SEO as it can be one of the building blocks you use to grow a bigger audience for your amazing blog.

If you would like more tips on how SEO can help you grow and market your blogs just type ‘Yes’ in the comments below. There are also lots of ways to get in touch with me and I love to hear from you.

Until next time.

Catch-up soon


What are Lead Magnets and How Will They Benefit Your History Blog: Tips and Examples for Bloggers

Desk scene

I know you put a lot of effort and heart into your history blog posts. If you want to grow your readership and blog as a whole think seriously about creating a lead magnet.

Here, I’ll take you through what a lead magnet is, how they can be beneficial to your history blog and eight examples (at the bottom if you want to scroll) you could create right now for your amazing history blog.

What is a Lead Magnet?

Lead magnets, also referred to as freebies, content upgrades, opt-in incentives and freemiums, are all created to do the same thing. They enable a transaction between you and people who visit your blog by giving something of value in return for their email address.

The Unwritten Principles of Lead Magnets

I prefer the term content upgrade to lead magnet – it may be a British politeness thing but pulling someone into your email list like a magnet isn’t very me! But, it’s a common term. What you’re really offering is an upgrade, and it should feel like one. So, think about this…

  • What would be useful to them?
  • What would you have found useful?
  • What would solve a problem for them?
  • What would save them searching (like perhaps you did)?
  • What would be motivational?
  • What would they enjoy?

It’s crucial to build trust with your visitors. You want them to come back to your blog, don’t you. So, here are some sure-fire ways to kill trust with your readers:

  • What you offer them is not remotely relevant to your blog content
  • What you give them does not match what you offered them in the sign-up
  • You add things after sign-up you never told them about. There are country rules about taking personal information like GDPR plus if you’re spammy people won’t come back, like or share your content. For example, if you’re going to give people general updates too then tell them!
  • You don’t give them a clear way to contact you and unsubscribe.

But, why would I want a Lead Magnet on my History Blog?

Because even if you just want to increase readership it’s very powerful now and can help the future growth of your blog:

  • You can talk directly to like-minded people really into your content. Giving your email address is much more personal than a ‘like’ or even follow. It’s saying “I want to hear more from you please”
  • You can bounce ideas off people. What do they want next? What did they like?
  • You can create permanency. Don’t get me wrong, social media is great especially the wonderful history community but Facebook could decide to change or even scrap Instagram- (remember MySpace) If you’ve amassed followers not subscribers you may lose your base. Plus email is more permanent for most people. I’ve had one of my email addresses for 22 years. Nuff said!
  • You’re giving yourself a list of people to communicate with if you decide to scale and monetise your blog. For example, you may create a Facebook group, start affiliate marketing or produce a physical product or course.

What are examples of Lead Magnets for my History Blog?

You can just have a ‘sign-up to get my weekly blogs’ but think how much more powerful it would be to say something like ‘Get your free guide to 17th Century Armour and my weekly expert blog tips’ followed by a clickable box saying ‘Yes Please, I’m In

I believe a history blogger has two main audiences. First, the reader who enjoys your historical subject and wants more. Second, the aspiring or established history blogger who wants tips on how to do things. People can of course be both.

As mentioned, your lead magnet has to be relevant to your readers and history as we know is gigantic but here are some suggestions to get you thinking:

  • Easy to follow timelines
  • Best YouTube Channels to follow
  • Best History Bloggers and/or hashtags to follow
  • Cheatsheet for carrying out research
  • 10 best resources and apps for history bloggers
  • 20 quirky facts you may not know about ……(base it on your subject)
  • The top twenty historical scandals (e-book)
  • 15 podcasts I can’t live without

I hope this has helped you think about how collecting contacts through a lead magnet could help your history blog.

Creating, designing, publishing and marketing lead magnets are huge but really vital topics for an aspiring history blogger. I also haven’t even touched on developing email ‘nurture sequences’ to really get to know the people who sign-up.

So, if you’d like future blogs on lead magnets and email marketing let me know. Drop me a comment below or there’s lots of ways to get in touch.

Catch-up soon


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Grammar Rules: British English Versus American English Top Six Spelling Tips

english grammar rules

Most essays and exams will include points for spelling and grammar. And, in the UK, if there’s one thing that will give you away and have examiner’s (who you want to keep happy right?) pulling their hair out its confusion over British English and American English spelling.

Thanks to auto-correct on American software like MS Word, UK students are more likely to have issues. I’m as guilty as the next person so this blog is also a timely reminder for me. : )

History Time: Why are British English and American English spellings different?

The English language has stayed within its long heritage, roots and influences such as the French language.

In the 17th Century, English settlers introduced the English language to America but it began to evolve. And, after American Independence from Britain the popular versions of English words being used by American people were standardised into their own dictionary.

If you’re interested in the origins of the English language The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way by Bill Bryson is fab. (paid link)

Quick Test – So, how many do you get right?

‘ence’ and ‘ense’

Some words that end with ‘ence’ in British English are spelt ‘ense in American English:’

British American
Defence Defense

British English Example: In 1066, Harold took up arms against William in defence of his crown.

British English Example: Henry VIII could not keep up the pretence with Catherine of Aragon any longer.

Double vowels

British English words that are spelt with the double vowels ae or oe are just spelt with an e in American English.

British American

British English Example: Margaret Thatcher manoeuvred herself into Leader of the Conservative Party.

‘re’ and ‘re’

British American

British English example: Queen Elizabeth I popularized visits to the theatre under her reign.

Words ending in a vowel plus l

In American English, the ‘l’ is not doubled.

British American

British English example: Allied forces travelled nearly 100 miles to reach the coast of Normandy in 1944.

‘our’ and ‘or’

British American

British example: The colour drained from Anne Boleyn’s face as she approached the scaffold.

British example: The UK Labour Party won a landslide majority in 1997 putting Tony Blair in No.10.

‘yse’ and ‘yze’

These verbs in British English with ‘yse’ at the end are always ‘yze’ in American English

British American

British English example: If you analyse poll results from before the 2015 General Election, no-one expected a Conservative majority.

Bonus tip

Under Tools > Language in MS Word, you can set your language to English (UK) but you will still need to know the principles for any written answers in an exam or test.

If you’re looking for more on English Grammar Rules you can’t go wrong with English Grammar for Dummies. (paid link)

As always, I’d love to know your feedback on this blog or any other I’ve written for you in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram @elizabeth_britpolitics or on Twitter @_Britpolitcs.

Catch-up soon.


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Why do we Procrastinate and How can I Stop?

Empty page in writing pad

Why do we procrastinate is a perfect topic right now. It’s dreary beyond belief out of the window, set to rain all day and a Star Wars marathon on the couch is extremely tempting. But, I know deep down what I’m really doing, despite their potential for developing Britpolitics, is procrastinating and lacking motivation for the tasks in front of me.

What is procrastination?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines procrastination as ‘to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring.’

This is entirely true.

When it came to studying, I put off revision countless times on subjects, like maths, because I hated them. But, what it leaves out is fear.

Part of my loathing for maths was that I found it incredibly hard. I thought I would get it wrong, be humiliated, and ultimately fail all my tests. So, fear is a major source of procrastination and for many, its intensity goes beyond ‘unpleasant.’

Fear will cause us to never start writing that dissertation in case its rubbish, not bother doing that assignment or turning up to that exam because you won’t pass anyway. All of these are forms of self-sabotage wrapped up with a procrastination bow.

In terms of motivation, when we procrastinate it zaps all of our energy. The emotion, intensity and guilt you put into procrastinating over studying often far outweigh doing the unpleasant or boring task or facing your fears. But, I’m thinking like me, you know the theory and what would really help are some practical tips. Am I right? Well, here goes.

6 Top Tips to Stop Procrastinating

One  – Don’t break off for anything (and I mean anything)

Get rid of distractions – switch your phone notifications off, close your tabs and go to full screen. Then, use the time you have to full effect. You can set a timer or try the Pomodoro Study Technique to give you a structure. Unless it’s a major emergency, do not leave your chair or your keyboard and do not let your mind wander into other tasks. Naturally, when we procrastinate, you will tell yourself something else is more important. Take a breath. Acknowledge it isn’t true and keep going right through to completion. If you can, fully complete the task you are procrastinating about otherwise it will be waiting for you next time and you’ll start the process again.

Two – Create the right environment

For reasons I do not understand I cannot work on a Saturday. I procrastinate, have zero creative ideas, my words don’t flow and I even clunk my way around the keyboard more than usual. So, unless urgent I don’t bother. I also don’t bother around 3:00 pm, I can’t work in slouchy clothes or without make-up on and I’ve never been an all-nighter student. Being a classic introvert, I can’t work around lots of people (a busy coffee shop – seriously!) or noise. But, chances are a) you think I’m a bit weird and b) you’ve got your own set of quirks. Analyse the environment you’re currently trying to study in. Assess it under noise, distractions, light, hot/cold, time of day, location, desk set-up and personal comfort. Is your environment helping you or hindering you?

Three  – Start small and do the thing you fear the most first

Just a little nudge can start the ball rolling when we procrastinate. Don’t think, I’ve got to write twenty pages today maybe start with completing a paragraph (never the opening one) on a part you find easier. Another great tip is to start a mind map – pick up a pen and just get ideas going away from your computer screen.

And, do the thing you fear the most first. If it’s mind-numbingly boring stick some music on and set a deadline, if it’s unpleasant there’s a comfort to be found on the side of resolution or if it’s scary then I believe you can’t have exhilaration without pushing through fear.

Four – Know when you’re hiding

Recognise procrastination when it’s in front of you. For me, it was, and still is, research (and making cups of tea).

Research can be never-ending therefore it is the perfect place to hide when something’s a bit scary or feels out of reach. Use the ‘just in time’ method. What do I need to know or do right now so I can start and what, if I’m truly honest can wait until later?

Five – Ask for help

Sometimes the best antidote to procrastination is to be open about it. Don’t suffer in silence and end up wasting a lot of time. If you’re procrastinating because you find a study task hard ask for help, join a study group, talk to someone or get involved in an online forum for a cathartic rant and tips.

Six – Use the best memorising techniques for you

If you’re finding revising your notes difficult and nothing seems to be going in there is every chance you will get disheartened, put it in the ‘it’s really hard’ box in your mind and give yourself a one-way ticket to procrastination. Remember, everyone learns and memorises information differently. Don’t force yourself into a style of revision that doesn’t suit you or come naturally.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram @elizabeth_britpolitics or on Twitter @_Britpolitcs.

Catch-up soon.


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5 Best Ways to Use Instagram Hashtags

Instagram User

Instagram hashtags are like the index of a book. You know that bit at the back where hundreds of pages have been categorised so if you only want to read about Mary Queen of Scots you can find it quickly. Well, hashtags on Instagram work the same way. They tell Instagram users what your content is about and are a mechanism to help them find it.

So, what are the five best ways to use hashtags in Instagram right now?

Go niche and be real

Your hashtags needs to really reflect your post’s content rather than what’s popular. Don’t force your post into the popular #throwbackthursday if you’re writing about the present but it happens to be Thursday. It looks fake and a bit desperate. If based on your content, your niche is #englishcivilwararmour – then it just is. Work with that. Just do a quick bit of research to make sure your niche hashtag is what you think it is. I have lost count how many times a history-related hashtag is actually for a TV program.

Balance big and small

It’s always changing but current thinking is to aim for 15 hashtags per post. When you are choosing which ones to use balance the big with the small. Always have 1-2 big hashtags like #history but half of your hashtags should be in the 500-5000 posts category with the rest between 5000 -100,000 posts. If you start to pick up momentum in the smaller hashtags, the Instagram algorithm will notice. If you just use the big ones you’ll get lost amongst the millions.

Get known in a hashtag

It’s good to mingle amongst your followers. But, you also want to try to become the top performer in a hashtag. Start using the same hashtags for a while and actively interact with people there. Because these are your people. They’re looking at and using the same hashtags as you. You’re more likely to find new followers and people to chat too.

Search and check out similar accounts

A hashtag search will inevitably bring up accounts similar to your topic. In one handy place, you can go into these posts, especially those at the top, and see which hashtags they’re using. What seems to be performing? People, with a large following, have probably been at it for a while and blazed the trail on hashtags as it were.

Create and monitor a list

Hashtags can be confusing and time-consuming if you’re thinking of them for every post and trying to remember if #tudors or #thetudors or #thetudordynasty was the best performer last time : (

Create a list in a notebook of large, medium and small hashtags related to your topic down the left side. On the other side, leave enough room to make notes about your performance in it over time, whether it needs to be deleted? Whether it’s grown etc? To complement this, you can also create a note on your phone with blocks of hashtags ready to copy, paste and where necessary edit, into your Instagram post.

And a bonus…

You know I’ll always leave you with a bonus tip! : ) If you’re using Instagram Stories. Add your hashtags first. Not too many. Then create a graphic, like a love-heart, and widen it to sit over the top. That way, you get a cleaner image but still the hashtag.

I know to some this all sounds a bit overly detailed. But, the way I see it, you’ve spent ages curating the perfect image and caption so getting down in the weeds with hashtags is a way to maximise the chances of more people seeing and interacting with your fabulous posts.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram @elizabeth_britpolitics or on Twitter @_Britpolitcs.

Catch-up soon.


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How I’ve been reminded what getting ready for University really means

getting ready for university

I recently asked people who had studied at university, ‘What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without or made life easier when you were a university student? I even shared this oh so bad (pre-fixed teeth and everything) graduation picture for a laugh and to say thanks.

I told them, for me, apart from a bottle of Spar Valencia white (sorry Mum) it was a wall planner, memory stick and a thick dressing gown that covered my bum on the way to the shower rooms.

The comments I received were things like:

  • “Having support when being away from home is a must”
  • “I printed lots of pictures of my family and friends and put them in frames/put them on the wall”
  • “I put something up that reminded me of why I was at university, many times I thought ‘why am I doing this?”
  • “I brought my duvet from home it was very comforting to have something old and homey in all new surroundings”
  • “Keeping a good relationship with your professors makes them more likely to be understanding in situations where you might not be able to finish an assignment due to personal problems.”
  • “It was and still is talking to my family about everything I did that day.”

I forgot being ready for University is more than just having a car crammed full of stuff

At the same time, I had created a new resource called ‘What to Bring to University: The Ultimate Packing List’ and had fun reminiscing about fairy lights, thermos, laptops and massive launderette bags. But, these comments made me take a step back.

I realised that of course there is a need for practical useful things like Toasted Sandwich Maker’s to make life less stressful (and save money), but I had forgotten about the emotional side of leaving home and starting University. I had forgotten that you will likely be away from your family and friends for three years, where you probably know no-one (a total nightmare for the introverts amongst us), in a new town or city. Even for the ‘toughest’ 18-year-olds, that’s a big change.

Looking out for student’s mental well-being will benefit everyone

Recent tragic news stories have shown us cases where universities have let their students down.

I’m pleased a real debate has started about the responsibilities on places of education for the welfare of their ‘adult’ students. It’s a difficult balance to make but human beings, with all their human-being stuff going on, attending university are more than a list of grades for a league table to be noticed a few hours a week. And anyway, it makes absolute sense that being mindful, and assisting where necessary, the mental well being of your students will help them achieve their academic potential or find their true path along a different route.

If you’re starting, or at, university it is an amazing, unique experience but just remember it’s OK to struggle, it’s OK to find it daunting. But it’s not OK to suffer in silence and fail to reach out and ask someone for help.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts or about your experience starting university in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram @elizabeth_britpolitics or on Twitter @_Britpolitcs.

Catch-up soon.


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Dissertation writing and planning tips – where should I start?

overwhelmed feeling

To help me give you these dissertation writing and planning tips I was going to dig out my two dissertations from the vault (aka the garage) but was quickly dissuaded as I Iooked into the landfill abyss of Amazon boxes and things I’ve never gotten around to selling. But, completing a dissertation tends to stick in the memory, so here goes…

Welcome to my garage.

To this day, I do not know what possessed me to write not one but two dissertations (undergraduate + post-graduate) on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. That’s 50,000 words and combined about a year of my life!

I passed both times but I don’t look back on my dissertations with a sense of accomplishment; actually with a tinge of embarrassment and I’m cringing as I write this. Why? Because I know I didn’t do any of the things I’m about to share with you when I started. I didn’t even get better after the first one. The good news is, I was able to learn from these mistakes and apply them to projects I’ve carried out and future courses.

You need to look at the checklist below in order. If you don’t do every one of these you’ll get stuck somewhere. For example, there’s no point setting up a work schedule if your scope is too big. Make sense?

  • Pick a topic – you may instinctively know what you want to do. But, more commonly, you may not. So, what previous study did you enjoy? What personal interests or experience do you have? Is there a topic related to a career aspiration you have? What’s in the news? Are there any unresolved questions you jotted down from two-years of lectures?
  • Once, you have some ideas; work up your opinion first. Explore your view before immersing yourself in everyone else’s. My top piece of advice is to Choose the one you are most excited about. (Apparently, for me this was an Iraqi Dictator!) I cannot stress how much time and energy will go into writing your dissertation. Your interest in the subject, when you have a wobble that it’s crap or you think you’ve chosen the wrong question, will carry you through.
  • Sketch-out the end first. Think of yourself working your way to a conclusion you already think and are testing as you go along
  • Now, use the experts! Agree on your scope with your tutor and maybe find someone who’s got experience writing a dissertation in or near to your topic.
  • “Fail to Plan: Plan to Fail” Even if you’re super-organised you need a method and tools right from the start to keep you on track. Your brain will tell you “Hey, I’ve got ages.” But, don’t underestimate the time it will take to complete as you’re just storing up stress for the end. Read my ‘Four top tips for getting and staying organised’ blog for more advice.
  • So, you’ve planned your research time into a busy diary. The trick now is don’t get overwhelmed with research or hide in it as I did! Keep a track of notes and references as you go along.
  • And, when you start. Don’t get put off by the competition or ask friends how much work they’ve done already. It’s a bit like when you come out of an exam and someone grills you about what you’ve put for every answer to the point you think you’ve failed. Well, ‘Dissertation Guy’ will tell you their topic is ground-breaking and should be written, checked and bound in a fortnight. Not helpful.

If you’re starting a dissertation or if you’re right in the middle, remember, you can write well otherwise you wouldn’t be there. Go back, and look at what you wrote in your first year. Look how far you’ve come. You’ve got this! Also, check out my resources pages for even more help.

As always, I love to hear your views and if you found these tips useful. Drop me an email or DM at elizabeth_britpolitics on Instagram.

Catch-up soon


p.s. Saddam Hussein left to the mercies of Word spellchecker is Sadist Hussey (could have been soooooooo bad if I’d clicked ‘change all’ and not ‘ignore all’ at 2:00 am)

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My Top Five Best Historical Films of all Time

My top 5 best historical films of all time

Whether it’s the stuttered swearing in The King’s Speech or the magnificent yet chaotic epic Cleopatra it seems we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’) just can’t get enough of historical films.

I’m guessing if you’re here you also partake in the odd fabulously costumed, occasionally terribly accented canter through a historical biopic, so today I thought I’d take you through my top five best historical films of all time.

***Watch out there may be a few spoilers!***

The Duchess – 2008

Considering I’m not a massive Keira Knightley fan I was surprised how much I loved this film.

The Duchess follows the turbulent life of Georgiana, played by Knightley, who becomes socialite The Duchess of Devonshire. The Duke, a role well-suited to Ralph Fiennes, flip-flops between total scumbag and a man clearly trapped under the enormous weight of expectation and family duty.

With fabulous costume, settings like beautiful Chatsworth House and score it’s really about the lack of power women had in 18th Century Britain trapped in arranged-marriages, with no money and no say over the many children they were expected to have.

There are some heartbreaking moments when the Duchess tries to break away and start a new life with her children and the man she really loves. Not one to watch if you want a bit of motivation, more of a ‘I’m in bed with a Lemsip and packet of biscuits feeling sorry for myself’ kinda film.

The Other Boleyn Girl – 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl they are referring to is Mary Boleyn, sister to the infamous Anne, who first turns the head of King Henry VIII. It follows the battle for the King’s affection, which Anne eventually wins and then spectacularly loses.

I have several issues with this film (but, yes I still watch it). Eric Bana who I loved in The Time Traveller’s Wife and Troy is just not a good Henry (sorry). For me, there’s something missing.

Natalie Portman, who looks fabulous, and Scarlett Johansson have great sisterly chemistry but both English accents are somewhat questionable and distracting. I also question how calculating they made Anne – did she really learn that much at the French Court to be able to manipulate the King?

The attempt to create a ‘will she won’t she be executed’ scene at the end will only work on 0.1% of the audience but the scene where Mary bravely takes baby Elizabeth from her mother to live with her, despite everything her sister, Anne did to her gets me choked every time.

Cleopatra – 1963

This is the epic Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton movie, which became more notorious for what was happening off set than on it. I love it because it’s about three days long : ) and just madness.

Taylor, as Cleopatra, gives a commanding performance looking like the Hollywood star she was and the ever-serious Burton’s monologues as Mark Anthony are sublime.

The budget for Cleopatra started off at $2 million and ballooned to an estimated $44 million, and this is 1963 prices people! I’m guessing the costs were not helped by 26,000 costumes, 79 sets and Taylor’s record-breaking $1 million fee.

It was originally meant to be two movies, but the studio sensing the money they could make from audiences clambering to see the on-screen chemistry between scandalous Burton and Taylor condensed what they had into one movie. And you can tell!!!

The movie, despite the personal drama, was a massive flop. It nearly bankrupted Twentieth Century Fox and Taylor nearly died of pneumonia (although that woman was ill a lot.) Historical accuracy? I have no idea. Magnificent chaos to watch every Christmas holiday? Definitely.

The King’s Speech – 2010

When a historical film is an Oscar winner it means one of two things. It’s either completely worthy and fabulous or so over-the-top arty and luvvie that it’s a disaster.

The King’s Speech is certainly the former. Starring Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, it is just like a hot chocolate and packet of Fortnum’s biscuits. I absolutely love the historical films that take a small story you didn’t really know about from a massive event and dive right in.

The film, as you can imagine, takes us through Bertie, Duke of York’s attempt to cure his stutter. His wife, Elizabeth, takes him to every specialist on Harley Street until they come across an Australian with seemingly unorthodox methods.

As his brother Edward VIII abdicates and war with Germany looks every more likely the Duke now King George VI must be able to communicate with his people. He must also listen uncomfortably to the reasons why he stutters – not easy for a King.

Everyone in this is magnificent and the exchange where Logue’s wife comes home early and finds the Queen, played superbly by Helena Bonham Carter, in her kitchen is brilliant.

At the end when the King delivers his radio broadcast to reassure a country going to war, you are nervously on the edge of your seat. You know he’ll do it, but you still feel like you’re in that tiny room with him ticking off every word.

Elizabeth – 1998

Falling into the ‘it did really well, let’s make a sequel’ trap – we’ll gloss over Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which involved a lot of hair-tossing at Tilbury and slow motion. The first film ‘Elizabeth’ had great storytelling and simplicity in its settings and effects.

Cate Blanchett, the young Elizabeth, is taken from the playful light of Hatfield House to the dark of the Palaces. A young Protestant Queen, she is surrounded by male advisers who want to control her.

The film centers on the tiresome issue of ‘why didn’t she marry’ for a while, as she gets bolder and ever closer to Lord Robert Dudley but also the many plots against her life.

Blanchett is, of course, fabulous, but the rise of Francis Walsingham, the first official spymaster, also captures the film. Geoffrey Rush expertly counsels the Queen, lurks in corners and deftly carries out his search for the treasonous amongst them.

In the end, the traitor’s heads are on spikes (must be very strange for the actors to see that) and Elizabeth – the Virgin Queen, dressed in angelic white declares herself ‘married to her people.’ This is a great Friday night, glass of red and dark chocolate movie.

I’ve only covered my top five historical films here – there are so many more I could have added and new ones are coming out all the time.

Leaving accuracy aside, this is great news if like me you love this genre of films and see it as a way to help people know more about their own history or find out about another.

As ever, get in touch or leave a comment below telling me what you think about my top five historical films.

Also, what makes your list?

Catch-up soon


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Four Top Tips for Getting and Staying Organised

staying organised

I love it when a plan comes together! You’re starting a sparkly brand new course or moving into the next phase. Either way, it’s a fresh start; a new timetable; and a chance to say “Right, this year, no ifs, no buts, I am going to plan and be organised!”

Here are a few top tips on how to nail your organisation this year. In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you.


Schedule a meeting with yourself.

  • We turn up to lots of things, including things we don’t want to. Classes, seminars, dates or appointments. And, why do we turn up? Because they’re at set times and because we’ve deemed them to be important. But, when it comes to setting study time we don’t always do this. Some of it may be fear and procrastination, we get distracted, and time ticks on. But, before you know it another academic week has shot past!
  • Be realistic and schedule definite times when you can’t study or do not wish to study. Also, when are you most productive? I never schedule anything on a Saturday afternoon – I don’t know why but I’m just useless. Nothing goes into my brain and nothing remotely creative comes out. It’s just a mental block from school times. My brain is saying “go and do something else because this ain’t happening?”


Create clarity and distinctiveness.

  • First, have a good de-clutter. It’s hard to create a system that will stand you in good stead to being organised if there’s stuff, including last year’s notes everywhere. File them somewhere and, if you’re completing a longer course, make sure they’re in great shape for when you need them to revise.
  • Be honest, and review what worked for you in previous courses and what went a bit wrong. Set realistic changes for yourself that are actionable and measurable. For example, I’m going to download my electronic diary onto my phone so I can update it in real-time. Then, when it’s done; it’s done.
  • Not everything needs to be electronic (see tip four) – Are you a visual person Do you need a diary or an academic planner. Perhaps, a wall planner could work for you? There are lots of cheap ones where everything falls off or the pens don’t work. I have used this one for several years; It gives me a whole year perspective but in this link, you can find lots of wall planners set by academic year too. (paid link)

A friendly note: If you’re at university (or at home) make sure you know the rules about blue-tac and pinning first (or it may be bye-bye deposit) : (


Buy anything you need now…

  • If you don’t have supplies to hand you will start your own ahem… ‘system’ on what you do have. I love these notepads. Oxford Campus Wirebound Notebooks, (paid link) been using them for years. Good quality paper, smooth writing and different bright colours to grab and go.
  • Think about your system first, how you will divide your learning into manageable sections so you don’t get overwhelmed. This will tell you how many sets of flashcards, notepads or multi-coloured post-its you need.


Create a structure to your electronic notes and files

  • Do not have twenty files saying





Firstly, it’s completely uninspiring and overwhelming. Secondly, when you come back to it a year from now it will mean nothing!

Use dates, times, course numbers or specific themes such as your essay title.

  • I use Dropbox (also my file insurance policy) and create folders within it. Much easier than having one long list of documents
  • Set up a note in your phone to match each course heading or titles that mean something to you. Here you can add little bits of information as you go along. Make sure notes is switched on to back up to a cloud.
  • If you think of something important, and it’s chunky, send an email to yourself with a good subject line to help you recall what the email was about. Your inbox will set up its filing system. All you need to do is create a filter using your name and press search.

As always, I’d love to know how you stay organised and if you found these tips useful. Drop me an email or DM at elizabeth_britpolitics on Instagram.

Catch-up soon


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