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Transcript of TOK: History
History What is
history? Evidence Significance Too little
too much? So what? Why study history? Explaining and understanding the past Sense of identity Defence
against propaganda Understanding of human nature History: "More or less bunk?" “A country without a history is like a person without a memory.” One-sided interpretation The present controls the past Human thoughts and actions in a wide variety of circumstances Self-realising expectations If you think that something cannot be changed, you won't even bother trying to change it.
However, the historical record suggests that the future does not have to be like the past.
Change is possible! How can the past be known? The past and our knowledge of the past Objectivity in Historical Knowledge Primary Sources Secondary Sources "Bedrock of history"
Written by someone who was there at the time of a historical event Fallible eye-witness
Deliberate manipulation A later, second-hand account of a historical event
Secondary sources are nothing but opinions unless they are based off of some first-hand accounts of the event. There is far less agreement about the meaning of significance of facts than about their occurrence Writing History The historian explains and interprets the past. A question of problem which reflects
contemporary preoccupations. A selection of a selection Selective interpretation of events
Our knowledge of the past is filtered through the witness and the historian "Ignorance is the first requisite of the historian, ignorance which simplifies and clarifies, which selects and omits." - Lytton Strachey Hindsight Advantages Disadvantages Understanding the significance of an event in the present
Description of people and events
Division of historical periods Hindsight bias suggests inevitability
Failure to appreciate how open and uncertain the past was The Problem of Bias Topic choice bias: influenced by preoccupations of the historian
Confirmation bias: focuses on supporting evidence and ignores any counter-evidence
National bias: cultural or political prejudices related to beliefs or nationalistic pride A pluralist approach The ideal form of studying history is by taking a cubist approach
Explore the past from a variety of perspectives
Recognize the values and limitations of each source without succumbing to relativism Theories of History "The human universe is so enormously complicated that to speak of the cause of any event is an absurdity." - H.A.L. Fisher Causal Factors Geographical conditions Social and economic conditions Chance occurrences Individual Motives The 'great person' theory of history The course of history is mainly determined by great individuals
R.G. Collingwood believed historians must have empathy to understand historical motive
However, it is difficult to empathize the 'monsters of history'
Exaggerated roles of single individuals in greater outcomes Economic Determinism Marx believed that technological and economic factors drive historical change, rather than great individuals
Technology determines how society is organized, which in turn determines how individuals think
Marx's own predictions have not come true
Karl Popper argues that if it is possible to predict future scientific discoveries, then they would have been discovered in the present instead The role of chance Some argue that history has no meaning as is governed by chance
Blaise Pascal suggested the effect of the length of Cleopatra's nose on the fall of the Roman Empire
History is a mixture of great people, technological factors and chance events
The role of a historian is to craft a meaningful narrative out of an array of historical activity