Historical Inquiry in an Informal Fan Community: Online Source Usage and the TV Show The Tudors

Jolie Christine Matthews*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This article examines an informal online community dedicated to The Tudors, a historical television show, and the ways in which its members engaged with a variety of sources in their discussions of the drama’s real-life past. Data were collected over a 5-month period. The analysis included the types of sources used in conversation; members’ purpose for invoking and reaction to sources; as well as topic, participation, and response patterns in the discussion forum. The community is a space in which popular culture and the discipline of history meet. Members come together because of a fictional depiction of the past, yet a desire to corroborate, clarify, contextualize, or uncover what really happened leads users to participate in detective-like inquiry work and the learning of new topics they had not previously considered. Members also challenge and critique one another’s positions and the sources other members invoke in multiple ways, including by using more formal disciplinary heuristics in this informal setting. Key differences emerge in members’ purpose for invoking sources, with popular media used more frequently for illustrating a point or asking a question and nonfiction works most invoked to support and argue historical claims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-50
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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