Why does history have a special place in TOK?
One of the key differences between the TOK diagram and the IB Diploma hexagon is that history is given its own place in the former, and is only one of many subjects in the latter – nudging shoulders with various other subjects in group 4. This may have surprised you, and perhaps annoyed you if you are a keen geographer or psychologist. But there are many reasons for history being singled out in this way.
The Historian Arthur Marwick wrote in his article, The Fundamentals of History, that the most important reason for doing history is to be able to understand the present. In his words:
The simplest answer to the questions “Why do history?” or “What is the use of history?” is: “Try to imagine what it would be like to live in a society where there was absolutely no knowledge of the past.”
For Marwick, it is simply inconceivable to try to understand the present without reference to the events that have brought us here. Just as we look back on our own personal pasts in order to take stock of where we are, so society needs to study its collective past in order to understand its present state.
But there are many other good reasons why history is studied, and why the Theory of Knowledge course considers it such a special human science. Marwick lists these as:
The ‘poetic appeal’ of events from the past
A simple interest in what happened
A way of acquiring the ‘contextual knowledge’ of literature, paintings, and other words of art
Developing a sense of ‘scepticism and caution’
Helping us in distinguishing between pieces of ‘writing which are well-substantiated and logical, and those which simply express theory, hypothesis, or opinion.’
A defence against the multitude of misleading messages ‘constantly battering against us’ in the 21st century
Honing our skills of communicating our ideas
From your own knowledge of the TOK course, which of these would you say are the most relevant to TOK? Which are least significant? Are there any here that you do not accept?