Reasons to Study History – TOK Discussion

We were introduced to the 7 reasons we should study history in TOK class, and it got me thinking why did I actually choose history as an IB DP subject. These 7 reasons are reasons formulated by various historians. I will rank all the reasons based on how important I think they are. I think all of these reasons are legitimate, and the importance of each reason is really up for anyone’s own interpretation and can be influenced by their own experiences with history as a subject.

  1. Augustin Thierry believed that patriotism and nationalism were one of the main reasons that we should study history as it provides us with a sense of security and a better outlook to the future.

I do think it is somewhat to learn about your nation’s history and it gives students, historians a sense of pride in their history, culture. I’m particularly interested in Hong Kong history, as it allows me to better understand my own country and culture. But, I believe that we should not study history only from our own countries, or else you will have a very limited view of the world around you. Therefore I place it 6th out of 7th.

2. Marwick talks about the importance of self knowledge of an individual and important to have memory in a society, which helps maintain and provides a construct to the society.  

I think this is quite a legitimate reason to be able to have knowledge of our society as without knowledge there wouldn’t be a society. I think it’s important to pass down knowledge to each and every next generation. Some may argue this knowledge is passed down through texts written by historians, but without knowledge about society and past, society will just be a useless structure holding everyone together for no reason. Therefore, I place this reason as the 4th reason out of 7

3. RG Colingwood talks about the importance of self knowledge, being aware of one’s self, being able to notice the differences between self and others. This knowledge helps us learn about what mankind is.

I think this reason is very similar to having self identity via the learning of one’s culture. This is really similar to Marwick’s thoughts on the importance of “memory” in a society, or else there wouldn’t be really any society. As this is really similar to the reason above, I place it as the 5th reason out of 7.

4. GR Elton believes that history provides the mind with intellectual training. The nature of history forces humans to constantly seek the truth, which helps set certain standards, and provide the training for the mind.

I think this is one of the most important parts to the reason why we study history to most people. I think history helps us develop logical reasoning skills, and allow us to construct sound arguments. The abundance of different opinions by different historians also encourages us as humans to constantly question and find the real truth behind a past event. Therefore, I rank it 2nd of 7th.

5. Carl Gustavon believes that history provides us with perspectives on human behaviour, and be able to look into the future of the human race.

I don’t think it’s too important to make assumptions on the future as the other reasons on this list. I just don’t think the main purpose of history is to speculate about the future, rather to be aware of the present and the past. Though I have to agree that it is important to look at the progress and development of humans as a civilisation. Therefore I rank it 7 out of all 7 reasons.

6. The study of patterns, and the progression of human civilisation by looking into past society.

I think it is also quite interesting to also compare our lives with the people from the past, and identify whether there are similarities and differences between society now and before. I think this is important as it justifies our look into the past, and helps us make assumptions of future events, though less accurate than models in human sciences like economics. Therefore I rank it as the third reason out of the 7 reasons presented.

7. Understanding the daily lives of citizens during a specific time and during an event.

I think it’s important to understand the daily lives of citizens during a specific time during an event. I think this is an important source of information that is different from a conventional textbook. The daily lives of citizens is what helps us really understand the impact of a certain event on the population, the living conditions, in order to be fully immersed into what had happened. After all, I think history is just the chronicling and discussion of the interaction between people. Therefore, I rank it the top reason out of the 7th reason.


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