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"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 and Teds 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.)
The title is a reference to Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure.
The entire premise of:
- Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure: as Abe Lincoln mentions in the page quote, the duo harvest various historical figures with their time machine and bring them in for their history report.
- "The Magic Treehouse" 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.
- Time Squad
- Time Warp Trio
- 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.
- Split Infinity has a teenage girl going back in time, and becoming her deceased relative - while learning about how The Great Depression was started.
- Superbook, an anime where the protagonists go back in time to experience the events of the Bible.
- Peabody's Improbable History
- U.S. of Archie, sort of
- Jump Start Adventures 3rd Grade Mystery Mountain, where the antagonist already knew the history and deliberately changed it her way, causing you to have to undo it back to normal.
- Connie Willis' time travel series, Fire Watch, Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and All Clear.
Has episode(s) of the trope:
- 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.
- Inverted on The Fairly Odd Parents. Instead of Timmy going back, he brought the founding fathers forward.
- South Park parodied it on one episode where Cartman intentionally electrocuted himself with a Tivo full of the History Channel. It worked too.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales short "Tell-Tale Telegraph", Tennessee fell asleep while reading about the Civil War. He dreamed that he was protecting a Civil War fort from Indians, and had to learn the workings of a telegraph.
- One of the main purposes of the Imagination Station on Adventures in Odyssey — virtual reality, but Your Mind Makes It Real.
- An old Looney Tunes Wartime Cartoon has Uncle Sam teaching Porky Pig the foundation of the USA.
- 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.
- Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?
- Later, there was one called "Where in America's Past is Carmen Sandiego", which focuses on a specific part of history.
- In an animated episode of The Tick, a villain captures Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Johannes Gutenberg, and George Washington Carver. ("If I could only get my hands on those peanuts!")
- And the cavewoman who invented fire.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Note in passing
- 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.
- 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 minute.