Teaching physics through a historical context provides effective learning and increases students' motivation for and interest in physics. For example, trebuchets and mangonels may be interesting historical contexts for learning about energy, work, and projectile motion. In this study, the implementation of physics lessons related to these subjects in historical contexts is described in detail, together with some results for students' achievements. The results indicate that historical contexts have the potential to improve the teaching of some specific physics topics. © 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd.