TOK – What is the AOK of History?

We started discussing and learning about one of the last areas of knowledge: History. History has always really been one of the subjects I’ve enjoyed at school, and is the subject I’m writing my Extended Essay on, so I think my understanding of history is good. We did a diagnostic quiz where we answered whether a claim was true or false and what you u

One of the claims presented particularly intrigued me: “Since historians write about past events, they are trapped in their own imagination.” I think historians do sometimes exaggerate events, facts and opinion but they obviously don’t come from their own imagination. Writing about past events is actually an advantage to a historian because there is a benefit of hindsight which allows the historian to go through different selections of sources and make a better interpretation than without the availability of certain sources. For example, the opening of Soviet archives allowed historians to make a better interpretation of the events surrounding the Cold War.

Some people may argue history is not worth studying because there is no one definite answer, and question whether a historian is qualified to give us his opinion, or is it just bogus imagination. I believe what historians say are definitely not bogus, as they are backed up with extensive research and evidence in support of his view and ideas. The different opinions of different historians are important to understand the full picture of the event. By learning about the different schools of thought, we are able to understand the event better. For example, there are different schools of thought for the cause of the cold war, orthodox for historians who believe the Soviet Union was the aggressor, or Revisionist for historians who believe the United States was at fault. By understanding the reasons behind the historian’s view, we have a better understanding of the full picture. Therefore, I believe historians are not trapped in their own imagination, but have evidence backed imagination.

Some people would still be confused to why historians are allowed to tell us what they think of the event. Should we, as a a population be only provided with objective facts and be allowed to make an interpretation on our own? This would allow the people to make their own judgement based on individual morals, ethics, while historians will attempt to instill their own values into the people through their opinions. For example, a Chinese historian’s view on the Chinese Cultural Revolution is going to be very different from a Western historian.

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