TOK – Map Like, and Story Like Knowledge Discussion

History can show characteristics of both map and story like knowledge. The most obvious distinction between the two are that information written on maps are discovered, and stories are created. These two distinctions will be discussed below in order to show where history lies on the spectrum of map like and story like knowledge. Some historians have also made the distinction between map and story like knowledge by comparing history to a science, and other historians comparing the study of history to a type of art.

It can be argued that historical knowledge is more map like knowledge simply because of the collection of factual evidence that occurs in history, that we collect from evidence from the past. Maps and factual historical knowledge share a characteristic of relative objectivity to facts.  Several historians argue that historical knowledge should be as objective and impartial as it can be, and maintained the moral dignity of the historical field. In this case, it makes history more map like, as both are relatively impartial in nature, and is something that is discovered by people and simply recorded as if it “speaks for itself”, as Lepold Van Ranke said.

It can also be argued that historical knowledge is more story like knowledge because of the presence of different historical opinions of a specific historian, as if the historian is telling a story of his own, adding in his opinion along the way. Stories are created by authors, and so are different historical opinions are created by different historians. A simple term to define this all would be the historiography. An example of prominent historiography would be the different schools of thought that was created to place judgment on the origins of the Cold War. For example, Orthodox historians believe the Russians were at fault for the build up of the Cold War, and caused the tensions between the two nations through their Marxist-Leninist driven expansionist policies. All of these historical opinions are created by historians based on their interpretation of the events of the Cold War, rather than information that is discovered by historians. This view can be partly backed up by the historians Charles A Beard and Carl Becker, who believed it was impossible for a historians to remain objective, and believed that history was more of an art than science, that involved some sort of personalisation in nature. EH Carr reiterates this view saying “interpretation is the lifeblood of history”
I think History would lie in between the spectrum of map and story  like knowledge; simply because it has to involve both the more art like characteristics of history, and also involve the more science like characteristics of history. Without the objective facts like science, there wouldn’t be any individual personalisation of the base knowledge that all historians work off. Personally, I believe that history is more of a story like knowledge simply because history would just be “a collection of facts” and mean nothing if interpretations and it’s more art like characteristics did not exist.

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