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History for Theory of Knowledge

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History for Theory of Knowledge

  1. 1. History What 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 History Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds – some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians – may not be without their glory; and especially to show why the two peoples fought with each other. (Opening Herodotus, 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. Selection The facts are like fish swimming in a vast and murky ocean, and what the historian catches will depend partly on chance but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what bait he chooses – these two facts of course being determined by the type of fish he wants to catch. By and large the historian will 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 person's distortion is another's 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 they're 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 petition Swami Vivekananda once said "The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies!". He was describing education in India in the pre- independence era. Thanks to NCERT, which publishes textbooks for all the state run schools in India , Swamiji's words are more true today than ever before . Consider this …… 2. According to an NCERT textbook the first war of independence was nothing but mutiny. ……….. We request your Excellency to ensure that such distortions 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 believed more than ever that to shed or not to shed the blood of his peoples depended entirely on his will... yet then, and more than at any time, he was in bondage to those laws which forced him, while to himself he seemed to be acting freely, …….. 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 - Waterloo 1. 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 Books When high school students in Shanghai crack open their history textbooks this fall they may be in for a surprise. The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization. 42
  43. 43. Economic Determinism Karl 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