Generative AI, History and Historians, a reading guide

by | May 1, 2024 | General | 0 comments


There are few bigger, and more pressing, topics today than the current and future impact of Generative AI. Nowhere is this more evident than in Higher Education.

The opportunities and challenges of GenAI are relevant to all those engaged in teaching and research. But each discipline also has distinctive questions and concerns relating to the latest iterations of AI.  What, therefore, are the possible implications for the teaching, study, research and communication of history?

In this post, we introduce a forthcoming Royal Historical Society event on ‘AI, History and Historians’, and launch a guide to recent articles on GenAI, the humanities and history.



On Wednesday 17 July 2024, the Royal Historical Society hosts an online panel discussion on ‘AI, History and Historians’. An international panel of historians and digital specialists will consider history’s future as the scale and capacity of Generative AI gains pace, as well as the history of artificial intelligence and our responses to date.

Our speakers will reflect on the impact of AI for history; current research on its implications for teaching and learning; and whether histories of previous technological change can better prepare us to accommodate GenAI alongside the well-established — and vital — skills and practices of historical study.

Comment and opinion about the impact of Generative AI is everywhere, and developing rapidly. On 17 July, the Society offers its own contribution from the perspective of History and historians working in Higher Education in the UK and North America. Such is the pace of change, it’s very likely the subject will have moved on between publication of this post and our panel discussion in July.

To accompany our forthcoming panel we therefore offer — below — a listing of recent articles relating to Artificial Intelligence that have come to our attention. It’s an approach we hope will prove more useful than a single, general article on AI and History in Higher Education, which runs the risk of being quickly out of date. Many of the commentaries are free to access, while some of the articles published in academic journals require an institutional subscription.

The following selection of further reading focuses on implications for humanities subjects, in the round, and has — where possible — identified commentaries specifically on history and the practices of its students, teachers and researchers. In addition, we include content relating to the history of Artificial Intelligence, and scholars’ responses to earlier instances of technological — and especially digital — innovation, that may inform our own future responses to Gen AI.

We hope this listing serves as a useful resource for historians and one to which we can add as new technologies, concerns, opportunities and perspectives are raised. We also hope that you will help us develop this listing.

If you have recommendations for further reading — specifically on the relationship of Generative Artificial Intelligence and historical practice, or on histories of AI — please do let us know:

We hope too to welcome you on Wednesday 17 July 2024 to our panel discussion, ‘AI, History and Historians’, as the first of the Society’s commentaries on this important theme.



History, Historians and Artificial Intelligence

A guide for students, lecturers and researchers



1. General / Humanities-focused reports and commentaries


Russell Group principles on the use of generative AI tools in education (July 2023)

The Intelligence Revolution: What’s Happening and What’s to Come in Generative AI, The Scholarly Kitchen (July 2023). This is one of several posts on GenAI, universities and Scholarly publishing and communications available from The Scholarly Kitchen.

The Contours of the Generative AI Debate (October 2023), 1 of a 6-part series on technology and university teaching carried in WonkHE (October 2023)

‘The AI Generation: How Universities can Prepare Students for the Changing World’, DEMOS and University of London report (November 2023)

British Academy & DSIT Roundtable: Possibilities of AI for the Public Good, British Academy report (November 2023). The British Academy also hosts an ongoing programme investigating AI and the Future of Work.

‘Navigating the AI Revolution in Higher Education: a Call to Action’, Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) blog post (January 2024)

‘Provide or punish? Students’ Views on Generative AI in Higher Education’, Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) report (February 2024)

‘The continued success of universities hinges on the response to the generative AI reckoning’, WonkHE (March 2024)

‘Making strategic sense of generative AI’, HEPI blog (March 2024)


2. History, historians and AI


Artificial Intelligence and the Practice of History: A Forum – a special section of the American Historical Review (September 2023) featuring 8 commentaries of historical practice. The AHR special section provides the fullest discussion currently available on the implications and opportunities of AI for historians, in teaching and research.

The American Historical Association (AHA) website offers a range of commentaries on the use and implications of recent developments in AI for historians and their students. These include:

How AI is Helping Historians Better Understand our Past, MIT Technology Review (April 2023)

Generative AI and Historical Authority, National Council on Public History (October 2024)

Assessing the Usefulness of ChatGPT in Crafting Interpretive Content, National Council on Public History (November 2024)

How AI Can Make History, The Verge (February 2024)

Applying AI to Digital Archives: Trust, Collaboration and Shared Professional Ethics, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (OUP) (June 2023)


3. Histories of AI


The Brief History of Artificial Intelligence, Our World in Data (University of Oxford, December 2022)

Histories of Artificial Intelligence: a Genealogy of Power, special issue of the British Journal of the History of Science (December 2023) [Open Access]

UC Berkeley Historian of Science Ponders AI’s Past, Present and Future, Berkeley News (September 2023)



IMAGE CAPTION: Jackie Niam iStock Photo

All titles listed above are provided by parties and publishers external to the Royal Historical Society. The Society does not accept responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided, the views of the authors, or the quality of the published text. The RHS does not accept liability for any element of the publications listed in this section.

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