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HistoryWhat is history but a fable agreed          upon? (Napoleon)                                     1
What is History?• History is but the register of human crimes and  misfortunes.• History: An account, mostly false, of  ev...
What do we mean by „History‟• Past events  – What actually happened  – Our knowldege ..... complete or incomplete?  – Obje...
The purpose of HistoryHerodotus of Halicarnassus here displays hisinquiry, so that human achievements may notbecome forgot...
Purpose of History• To provice societies with a sense of  Identity  – “a country without a history is like a person    wit...
A model of history• X happened           A saw it           B recorded it           C interprets and writes it         ...
The „facts‟• The belief in a hard core of historical facts  existing objectively and independently of  the historian is a ...
Information• How much information / source material do  we have about these historical events?  –   The Persian Wars  –   ...
“Facts” and Sources• What do they consist of?   – “primary sources”   – “statistics”   – “eye-witnesses reports”   – “cont...
Moscow, May 5th 1920
Moscow, May   5th   1920
Same picture, different editing…
Who is this?   Who‟s this then?
Evidence questions• Is there a hard core of evidence all can agree  on? Or is it a fallacy?• Is there historical knowledge...
Historians– examine the sources– reflect on the views of other historians– come up with conclusions…– publish findings…for...
“History”• Who writes it?• For what purpose?• How do historians decide what’s included / left  out?  History will be kind ...
Bias• something conscious?• By what is it dictated?• Does it imply dishonesty?• Is it a separate issue from selection?    ...
SelectionThe facts are like fish swimming in a vast andmurky ocean, and what the historian catcheswill depend partly on ch...
Selection• The historian selects (and analyses)  according to  – The means at his/her disposal  – Paradigms  – Context  – ...
Paradigm, context, culture ......• Suicide bomber - Freedom fighter or terrorist?• Trafalgar, a decisive battle or a skirm...
Textbooks• Do all textbooks give the same account of  events?  – Selection  – Interpretation  – Use of language  – Analyti...
The use of Textbooks• “The systematic distortion of the historical  record propagated in the Japanese  educational system,...
Testimony to the US Senate………..The   second history textbook problem -- increasing content bias and distortion -- involves...
An Indian petitionSwami Vivekananda once said "The child is taken toschool, and the first thing he learns is that his fath...
Types of History• History books I read as a boy…• Actually British people; Caractacus, Richard the  Lionheart, Chaucer, Sa...
People and History“The History of Modern Europe can be written in  terms of three Titans: Napoleon, Bismarck and  Lenin” A...
People and History„Although in that year, 1812, Napoleon believedmore than ever that to shed or not to shed theblood of hi...
People and History• “If Newton had not existed someone else would  have discovered the law of gravity, whereas if  Shakesp...
People in History?• When a historian asks „Why did Brutus stab Caesar?‟ he means „What did Brutus think which made him dec...
Causal factors• Individual motives• Geographical conditions• Social and Economic conditions• Chance occurrences           ...
Causation in History - Waterloo1.   There was a communications breakdown between Napoleon‟s generals.2.   Napoleon‟s paren...
Causation• “nothing was exclusively the cause of the war and the war was bound to happen, simply because it was bound to h...
What sort of History?• " Philip II and the Mediterranean, a good  subject. But why not the Mediterranean  and Philip II? A...
What sort of History?• Political ?• Social ?• Economic ?• Cultural ?• Religious ?• Gender ?• Local, National, Global ?    ...
Social History                 35
Social History                 36
Economic History                   37
or Art History? (Cultural)                             38
Or the history of science and           ideas?                                39
Economic History                   40
Economic / gender                    41
Where’s Mao? Chinese Revise History BooksWhen high school students in Shanghai crack open  theirhistory textbooks this fal...
Economic DeterminismKarl Marx (1818 – 1883)   technological and economic factors     are the engine of historical change....
Popper‟s response The belief in the predictability of the  future is implausible and incoherent. If you could perfectly ...
Back to TOK• What knowledge issues have we identified?• Can we list them?• Is there such a thing as historical truth? Can ...
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History for Theory of Knowledge

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Presentation on History for the IB Theory of Knowledge course.

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History for Theory of Knowledge

  1. 1. HistoryWhat is history but a fable agreed upon? (Napoleon) 1
  2. 2. What is History?• History is but the register of human crimes and misfortunes.• History: An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.• History is a kind of experiment, albeit an imperfectly controlled one.• History: that is, history understood as a single, coherent, evolutionary process, when taking into account the experience of all peoples in all times. 2
  3. 3. What do we mean by „History‟• Past events – What actually happened – Our knowldege ..... complete or incomplete? – Objective reality?• Academic enquiry, historical writing – How do we know? – Reading and selection of sources – Interpretation 3
  4. 4. The purpose of HistoryHerodotus of Halicarnassus here displays hisinquiry, so that human achievements may notbecome forgotten in time, and great andmarvellous deeds – some displayed byGreeks, some by barbarians – may not bewithout their glory; and especially to showwhy the two peoples fought with each other. (OpeningHerodotus, the father of History - Cicero of Herodotus‟ „Histories‟) 4
  5. 5. Purpose of History• To provice societies with a sense of Identity – “a country without a history is like a person without a memory”• (Defence against) Propaganda – “Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past” Orwell• A key to understanding Human behaviour – “Those who don‟t study the past are condemned to repeat it” Santayana 5
  6. 6. A model of history• X happened A saw it B recorded it C interprets and writes it D publishes it E reads it F teaches it G learns it 6
  7. 7. The „facts‟• The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate‟ EH CarrCaesar crossed the Rubicon in 49bcThe battle of Bosworth Field took place in 1485 on BosworthHillWellington won the Battle of Waterloo in 7 1815
  8. 8. Information• How much information / source material do we have about these historical events? – The Persian Wars – Caesar seizing power in 49bc – The Wars of the Roses – The Napoleonic wars – The First World War – The Vietnam War – The Iraq War• What does it consist of? 8
  9. 9. “Facts” and Sources• What do they consist of? – “primary sources” – “statistics” – “eye-witnesses reports” – “contemporary reports” – “documents” / archives – Secondary sources• How „reliable‟ are they? 9
  10. 10. Moscow, May 5th 1920
  11. 11. Moscow, May 5th 1920
  12. 12. Same picture, different editing…
  13. 13. Who is this? Who‟s this then?
  14. 14. Evidence questions• Is there a hard core of evidence all can agree on? Or is it a fallacy?• Is there historical knowledge that would satisfy our definitions of „knowledge‟ in TOK?• How do we „know‟ History?• What role do bias and selection play in History? 14
  15. 15. Historians– examine the sources– reflect on the views of other historians– come up with conclusions…– publish findings…for whom ? • For God, for academic reputation, for money ? 15
  16. 16. “History”• Who writes it?• For what purpose?• How do historians decide what’s included / left out? History will be kind to me for I intend to write it - Churchill 16
  17. 17. Bias• something conscious?• By what is it dictated?• Does it imply dishonesty?• Is it a separate issue from selection? 17
  18. 18. SelectionThe facts are like fish swimming in a vast andmurky ocean, and what the historian catcheswill depend partly on chance but mainly onwhat part of the ocean he chooses to fish inand what bait he chooses – these two facts ofcourse being determined by the type of fishhe wants to catch. By and large the historianwill get the facts he wants. EH Carr 18
  19. 19. Selection• The historian selects (and analyses) according to – The means at his/her disposal – Paradigms – Context – Culture or era in which he/she lives •If seen as bias Topic bias Confirmation bias National Bias 19
  20. 20. Paradigm, context, culture ......• Suicide bomber - Freedom fighter or terrorist?• Trafalgar, a decisive battle or a skirmish?• The colonisation of America, a triumph or the end of a civilisation?• The atomic bomb, end of the war or the beginning of a new era (the cold war)?• Henry VIII‟s divorce – a sordid mess or the start of the fall of the Catholic Church in England? 20
  21. 21. Textbooks• Do all textbooks give the same account of events? – Selection – Interpretation – Use of language – Analytical concepts used• What is their purpose? 21
  22. 22. The use of Textbooks• “The systematic distortion of the historical record propagated in the Japanese educational system, which seeks to whitewash the actions of Imperial Japan during WWII” – Why should that be? – Is it true? 22
  23. 23. Testimony to the US Senate………..The second history textbook problem -- increasing content bias and distortion -- involves political judgments. The critique of distorted content in history is, of course, a problematic one. One persons distortion is anothers correction. Yet the list of textbook activists grows. It spans gender, ethnic, religious, environmental and nutrition causes that want to use textbooks to advance their agendas. The defenders of the revised history textbooks claim that textbooks used to be racist, sexist, ethnocentric, and jingo. Now theyre not. This is a political half-truth, a spurious and calculated claim, but it has been an effective one. Gilbert T. Sewall, American Textbook Council, New York 23
  24. 24. An Indian petitionSwami Vivekananda once said "The child is taken toschool, and the first thing he learns is that his father is afool, the second thing that his grandfather is alunatic, the third thing that all his teachers arehypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies!".He was describing education in India in the pre-independence era. Thanks to NCERT, which publishestextbooks for all the state run schools in India , Swamijiswords are more true today than ever before . Considerthis ……2. According to an NCERT textbook the first war ofindependence was nothing but mutiny.………..We request your Excellency to ensure that suchdistortions be removed from our education system 24
  25. 25. Types of History• History books I read as a boy…• Actually British people; Caractacus, Richard the Lionheart, Chaucer, Samuel Pepys, Alfred the Great, Florence Nightingale, Captain Scott, Alexander Fleming etc 25
  26. 26. People and History“The History of Modern Europe can be written in terms of three Titans: Napoleon, Bismarck and Lenin” AJP Taylor 26
  27. 27. People and History„Although in that year, 1812, Napoleon believedmore than ever that to shed or not to shed theblood of his peoples depended entirely on hiswill... yet then, and more than at any time, hewas in bondage to those laws which forcedhim, while to himself he seemed to be actingfreely, …….. Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) 27
  28. 28. People and History• “If Newton had not existed someone else would have discovered the law of gravity, whereas if Shakespeare had not existed no one would have come up with Hamlet. Are great historical figures more like Newton or Shakespeare?” Nicholas Humphrey 28
  29. 29. People in History?• When a historian asks „Why did Brutus stab Caesar?‟ he means „What did Brutus think which made him decide to stab Caesar?‟ The cause of the event, for him, means the thought in the mind of the person by whose agency the event came about: and this is not something other than the event, it is the inside of the event itself…...All history is the history of thought.‟ RG Collingwood 29
  30. 30. Causal factors• Individual motives• Geographical conditions• Social and Economic conditions• Chance occurrences 30
  31. 31. Causation in History - Waterloo1. There was a communications breakdown between Napoleon‟s generals.2. Napoleon‟s parents did not die in infancy.3. At Waterloo, Napoleon was suffering from chronic haemorrhoids which made it difficult for him to mount a horse.4. The wet weather led Napoleon to postpone his attack on Wellington.5. Napoleon underestimated Wellington‟s abilities as a general.6. Newton‟s laws of motion determined the flight of the artillery shells.7. The French troops didn‟t have any nails to put Wellington‟s captured artillery pieces out of action.8. During the battle Marshall Ney had five horses shot from underneath him and this caused him to make errors of judgement. 31
  32. 32. Causation• “nothing was exclusively the cause of the war and the war was bound to happen, simply because it was bound to happen” Tolstoy on the causes of the Napoleonic wars: 32
  33. 33. What sort of History?• " Philip II and the Mediterranean, a good subject. But why not the Mediterranean and Philip II? A much larger subject. For between these two protagonists, Philip and the middle sea, the division is not equal” Fernand Braudel• The history of events: "surface disturbances, crests of foam that the tides of history carry on their strong backs." 33
  34. 34. What sort of History?• Political ?• Social ?• Economic ?• Cultural ?• Religious ?• Gender ?• Local, National, Global ? 34
  35. 35. Social History 35
  36. 36. Social History 36
  37. 37. Economic History 37
  38. 38. or Art History? (Cultural) 38
  39. 39. Or the history of science and ideas? 39
  40. 40. Economic History 40
  41. 41. Economic / gender 41
  42. 42. Where’s Mao? Chinese Revise History BooksWhen high school students in Shanghai crack open theirhistory textbooks this fall they may be in for a surprise.The new standard world history text drops wars,dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor ofcolorful tutorials on economics, technology, socialcustoms and globalization. 42
  43. 43. Economic DeterminismKarl Marx (1818 – 1883) technological and economic factors are the engine of historical change. Changes in technology determine how society is organised and this in turn determines how individuals think. Rather than focusing on the actions of great men we might do better to study the effects of key inventions.
  44. 44. Popper‟s response The belief in the predictability of the future is implausible and incoherent. If you could perfectly predict the future then you would be able to predict such things as future scientific discoveries, but if you could predict the details of such discoveries, you would then have discovered them now and not in the future, and that contradicts the original supposition.
  45. 45. Back to TOK• What knowledge issues have we identified?• Can we list them?• Is there such a thing as historical truth? Can it be created?• How does History compare with other human sciences?• How does History compare with natural sciences? 45

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