Tristan Johnson had always admired the work of successful scientists making a name for themselves in their respective fields — people like Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson who were easily identifiable as prominent scientists and produced content that people care about. And yet, the same could not be said for historians; naming even one prominent historian who produces interesting content is a challenge for many.

And so, he set out to change this. In September 2015, Tristan launched Step Back History, a YouTube channel that has amassed just over 40,000 subscribers in the time since its beginning. His goal was to help people realize the importance of history and how it can help us understand the modern world in a way that was different from the usual long lectures and dull descriptions. He wanted history to be engaging and exciting through his videos, and most importantly, connect the past to the present by looking at history from a new angle.

Tristan will often cover topics that are typically seen as rather boring and turn them into enlightening videos. For example, his most popular video, with nearly 200,000 views, is titled “The Truth About Native Americans before Europeans Arrived.” He goes into the history of Native Americans and the pre-Colombian world, his voiceover accompanied by animations, visuals, and drawings to keep viewers engaged. And most of his videos follow a similar format — clips of him talking interspersed with applicable visuals.

But Tristan also aims to move past the more well-known parts of history and delve into unconventional ideas that people often aren’t aware of. Some other popular videos like this cover topics ranging from random facts about Iceland to the Colfax Massacre to Zoroastrianism to the lost colony of Roanoke.

Many videos also center around current events, discussing things like the alt-right, Al-Qaeda, free speech, whether Trump is a Russian agent, balancing the Supreme Court, political correctness, a primer on Vladimir Putin, and legalizing marijuana. All in all, Tristan’s goal is to educate and entertain, both on things that have happened in the past and things that are still going on.

To learn more about Tristan and Step Back History, listen to the full interview with him below and check out his channel at