Who is James?
Before becoming a content creator, James had always had an enormous interest in history. This passion led him to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Late Antique and Byzantine History. His academic specialty is the Medieval Balkans, Middle East, and the Roman Empire.
Due to this passion, several of his friends and his brother recommended that he share his love of history on TikTok.
He ended up enjoying posting history content on TikTok and named his account LivesandTimesHistory after the expression “the lives and times,” which usually focuses on famous individuals.
His Creative Process
James’ creative process was initially spurred by random facts or snippets of history that he would remember reading about. Then, he would research the topic extensively and create TikTok content about it.
“A lot of my earlier videos were tangentially linked to areas I’ve studied. One of my first videos was about a medieval emperor who lost his nose, it was cut off, and he came back with one made of gold. I studied him a fair amount during my master’s degree.”
James keeps his TikTok thumbnails consistent. He explains that he isn’t the savviest when it comes to graphic design, so keeping them consistent makes the thumbnail process easier. All of his thumbnails include his face and an interesting photo related to the historical topic discussed in the content.
A Love of History
“It [TikTok] was a passion project essentially because I like sharing information. I personally like knowing a lot about something… I like to show why I like history. It’s strange. It’s interesting. People’s lives are interesting and funny. Sharing that with people does a service to the subject.”
James notes that his TikTok may also be the first step to a successful history YouTube channel he is building. He explains that YouTube videos take more time than he can currently give because he works a full-time job. However, TikTok allows him to create short-form content and build an audience so that he can continue working towards more detailed content, such as a YouTube channel.
His most viewed TikTok so far has been about Europe’s most inbred king. He believes this post took off because of the taboo and shocking nature of the topic.
“It’s one of those things where the more taboo something is, the more people are interested by it. It’s one of those things you can’t look away from.”
That video was posted shortly after he started his TikTok, and it immediately took off. He had around 40 followers at the time but received about half a million views overnight on that post.
@livesandtimeshistory The invention of corn flakes and the strange beliefs of Dr John Harvey Kellogg #fyp #history #learnontiktok #education #didyouknow #learnwithtiktok #facts #strange #trivia #story #funny ♬ Bach unaccompanied cello suite "Prelude" – Jianteng
Marketing Strategy for TikTok
“Growth and popularity are good, but I really, really, really care about accuracy and not embellishing and being faithful to reality… It is popular for people to embellish stories from history…and when you look into it, it didn’t happen that way, or maybe it wasn’t true.”
Inaccuracy is a pet peeve of his, so he works diligently to ensure his content is accurate while still being exciting and entertaining. He acknowledges that it’s challenging to include a lot of detail in short videos, but he still takes accuracy seriously, ensuring that his research is meticulous and accurate.
If he does make a mistake, he also takes time to correct the mistake. He’s even deleted popular videos in the past after learning that they contained small errors.
Truthfulness and solid research are also critical parts of his content, and he believes these aspects will continue to serve him well.
@livesandtimeshistory The peculiar career of ‘Roland the Farter’ the favorite jester of one English King #fyp #history #didyouknow #learnontiktok #medievaltiktok #history #education #facts #strange #interesting #weird ♬ Bach unaccompanied cello suite “Prelude” – Jianteng
“Learning can be fun and interesting. If it’s in the format of a short video that you can scroll by or watch on your phone, and you come away from that having learned something, that’s pretty good. It doesn’t matter how it happens.”
He adds, “I have people tell me that I scroll through it [his TikToks] before bed, and I tell my friends that’s great, that’s excellent, that’s what I want. I want people to be interested in something that I can tell them [about.].”
His YouTube Channel
Currently, James is working on a mythology YouTube channel called Gods and Monsters. He notes that he is excited to see where the channel will go as he enjoys learning and sharing about mythology.
“I love mythology, and I find that history can be quite divisive sometimes. People can be very opinionated about certain topics. With mythology, it’s a good way that everyone can appreciate a story, and I enjoy telling them. I’m very interested in human belief systems, religions, philosophies, [and] general cultural stories.”
He also views the mythology YouTube videos as a portfolio for being a narrator or voice actor in the future. On his TikTok, he is regularly told that he has an excellent and distinctive voice ideal for narration, which is something he would love to get into.
“I’d like to look into narration, maybe voice acting. Really I’m open to anything that comes my way. On my mythology channel, I’ve been dabbling in voice acting. I’d certainly jump at any opportunity to do it, absolutely.”
Plans for the Future
James has not collaborated with other TikTokers or brands at this time, but he is open to the possibility in the future. A possible collaboration James discussed is creating a history podcast with a friend who is completing a Ph.D. in Ancient History currently.
As for the future, James shares that he is working on several projects, which may take the form of a new YouTube account or podcast. He notes that he enjoys listening to multiple hour-long history podcasts, which is something that he aspires to create in the future.
In addition, he’d love to cover more global history, especially since the school he went to focused heavily on European-centric history.
@livesandtimeshistory The 1919 Boston flood… of molasses? Turns out it’s much worse than it sounds #fyp #history #didyouknow #learnontiktok #education #facts #strange #trivia #interesting #story ♬ Chopin Nocturne Op9-No1(989972) – Satoru Saito
“I’d like to cover more global history because I think in school at the moment it’s very much focused on modern European history. Lots of World War II and the Cold War. When I went to university, I started studying more interesting fields like medieval history, Arabic history, the history of the Americas before Christopher Columbus. I think those areas are fascinating.”
When it comes to future content on YouTube and possibly other platforms, he wants to explore the human experience, whether that is sharing mythological tales or more history. He’d also love to make documentaries.
“I love documentarians like Louis Theroux and Simon Reeve, and how in their adventures they really offer a look into the human experience across the world. It’d be a dream come true to do something like that. So really, I see Tiktok as the beginning, the first but undeniably crucial step forward, to find what it is I’m good at and explore it, push the envelope, so to speak.”
In closing, he adds, “I think if people learn more about the broader scope of history, you can find something you’re interested in and go and study it yourself. I am hopeful for the future and definitely have more projects coming out.”