Field Trip to the Past

"Fourscore and... (looks at his pocket watch) seven minutes ago... we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill... and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it's true today. Be excellent to each other. And... party on, dudes!"
Abraham Lincoln, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Doing your history homework the exciting way!

This is a stock episode plot of having one of your protagonists learn their history by actually going back in time and experiencing it. If available the characters will use magical or sci-fi methods to travel back in time. Other times it's All Just a Dream or a hallucination caused by a bump in the head. Bonus points if someone quotes the saying, "If you don't learn from the past, you'll be doomed to repeat it."

If the character is not researching history it can be used to deliver An Aesop.

Compare to Wayback Trip, where the history seems to be a little… off, and the characters have to fix it. (Though there's naturally a continuum from this trope to that one; the main difference is whether or not the characters need to fix anything.) Compare also to Adventures in the Bible where the history the characters enter is as told by the scriptures of a religion or by a work of ancient literature.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Entire Series 
Anime and Manga
  • Superbook, an anime where the protagonists go back in time to experience the events of the Bible.

Comic Books
  • The Chilean comic Mampato is about the titular character (a 10-ish year old boy) travelling to various places and time periods (including the prehistoric era, The Middle Ages, the Chilean War of Independence, and the 40th century) using his "space-time belt". Being a bookworm, he does it out of a genuine desire to experience the time periods he reads about (or to help/meet with his friends, a caveman and a mutant girl from the future).

Film

Literature
  • The Magic Tree House series of children's novels, in which a young boy and girl discover a magical tree house filled with books, and if they sit in the tree house, point at one of the pictures, and wish they are in the place pictured, the tree house magically teleports them there. Using the tree house they visit places all over the world, in the past, and on the moon. As the series went on, though, it mostly dropped the "history" aspect, and now the kids are just as likely to visit fantasy locations (i.e. Camelot).
  • Connie Willis' time travel series, Fire Watch, Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Blackout/All Clear.
  • Timeline

Live-Action TV

Music
  • Ayreon's double album Universal Migrator: the last human, living on Mars, uses Imported Alien Phlebotinum to relive past lives, going all the way back to just before the big bang.

Video Games
  • JumpStart 3rd Grade, where the antagonist already knew the history and deliberately changed it her way, causing you to have to undo it back to normal.

Western Animation
  • Time Squad had a variant, wherein time has started slowly unraveling, causing history to go wildly off-course, from the relatively benign like Mahatma Gandhi refusing to work on gaining independence from the British Empire, because he's found his "true calling" in tap dancing, to the impossibly-weird such as Eli Whitney inventing flesh-eating robots instead of the cotton gin. Thus it's up to the eponymous Time Squad, with the help of the Tagalong Kid and noted history buff Otto, to go back in time and set history back on-course... or at least attempt to.
  • Time Warp Trio (Zero Context)
  • Peabody's Improbable History
  • U.S. of Archie, sort of
  • The Horrible Histories animated series. In each episode, Stitch and Mo would be transported to a different historical era, which would help them learn a lesson or solve a problem in their everyday lives.

    Has episode(s) of the trope 
Comic Books
  • Comics example: In the Golden Age, Batman and Robin would occasionally have a friend of theirs hypnotize them and send them back (or forward) in time to investigate certain events.
  • Superman #293 features a teacher and students from the future travelling back in time to get firsthand experience of "Thirsty Thursday" (a day where Superman is trying to get Metropolis to drink water).
  • PS238 has several students being assigned a history report, which they decide to do on the first metahuman by bringing his daughter to their time.
  • In The New Adventures of Superboy #26-27 (February-March 1982), the Boy of Steel tried going back in time once to complete a homework assignment on a project Mercury space launch four years earlier. (The teacher wanted the class to write essays as mock-"eyewitnesses" to a historical event.) Among other things, Clark learned: he shouldn't use his powers to take shortcuts on his schoolwork; he'd turn into an invisible phantom if he visits a time period when he's still alive; and he had no memory of most of the day's events, due to his younger self erasing his own memory. It turned out the younger Superboy had (under the request of President Kennedy) secretly saved the Mercury mission from Russian sabotage. Ultimately, "our" Clark returned to his own time and did the assignment "like an ordinary student." Making this worse, Clark admitted at the start he remembered seeing the launch on TV at the time, and the story's events forced him to do more research about the space mission than had he done the assignment normally.

Literature
  • The Time Scout series: In order to psych Margo up and get her interested in her difficult historical research, she's given a few tours downtime. First to Victorian England, then to Ancient Rome. She makes some serious mistakes each time, but also experiences some of the joys of learning.

Live-Action TV
  • An episode of Happy Days had Fonzie inexplicably being an American history expert and helping one of the others with a report on the Pilgrims. Cut to the Mayflower's holds, full of the cast now singing about journeying to America.
  • Boy Meets World did it twice.
  • The Sabrina the Teenage Witch spinoff novel Salem's Tales, did it.
  • Family Ties did it in an episode where Alex P. Keaton falls asleep — and he witnesses the Declaration of Independence. As this episode occurred around the time that Michael J. Fox (Alex's actor) was also playing Marty McFly on Back to the Future, this episode was possibly a nod to the then upcoming film. In the film, Doc Brown types in the date of the Declaration of Independence — when demonstrating to Marty how his time machine works.
  • Also inverted in one episode of The Twilight Zone, featuring a struggling TV writer who dabbles in black magic to summon William Shakespeare back from the dead to help him write his new show. After Shakespeare leaves in disgust after the TV execs butcher the script he wrote, the writer has another idea: a historical documentary, featuring the people who actually lived it.
  • Oddly used in Star Trek: The Original Series in the Poorly Disguised Pilot episode "Assignment: Earth." The Enterprise is apparently sent back on purpose to the 1960s to do research. This despite the many, many other Time Travel stories in Star Trek featuring the dangers of interfering with the timeline.

Radio

Western Animation

    Note in passing 
Fan Works
  • In the Star Trek fanfic Written In The Stars, Fem!Kirk of the Alt Reality keeps getting shown memories of her counterpart's past, to her annoyance. When her counterpart is about to show her another one:
    Oh no, not another field trip to the past!

Literature
  • In Thief of Time Susan Sto Helit (granddaughter of Death) has taken the job of a teacher. Though it is never actually shown, it becomes fairly clear that part of her history lesson involves actually visiting the event.
    • Not literal homework, but in Guards! Guards! the Librarian needs to know what a certain book says. Unfortunately, the reason he needs to know is that the book has been stolen. So he walks back in time (which apparently all libraries can allow), and reads it before it is stolen.

Live-Action TV

Western Animation
  • In an early episode of The Simpsons, the rich Mr. Burns is forced to pay a huge sum of money to the city government for dumping radioactive materials. Lisa thinks the money should be given to the public school, and imagines a scene with virtual-reality helmets which show a simulation of ancient Mongolia where Genghis Khan says, "Hello, Lisa! I’m Genghis Khan. You’ll go where I go! Defile what I defile! Eat who I eat!" This scene only lasts about a few seconds.


Alternative Title(s): History Homework By Time Travel, Excellent Adventure, Hands On History Lesson

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FieldTripToThePast