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Flashcards in TOK History Reading Deck (47)
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History is studying the past. True or false? Why?

False. History is not studying the past, but rather studying present traces of the past.


What is often the issue with studying the distant past?

There is too little evidence, making it easy to jump to unsupported conclusions.


What is often the issue with studying recent/modern history?

Too much evidence; too overwhelming.


Is history a record of ALL past events? Explain.

It is not. It is the record of SIGNIFICANT events. Significance can be determined by the number of people affected.


What is the role of a historian?

Not to just study the past or tell what happened, but also to analyze and understand why it happened


What are three reasons for studying history?

It gives us a sense of identity, it is defense against propaganda, and it enriches our understanding of human nature.


How does history give us a sense of identity?

Without knowing where we've been, we would have no idea where we are going. To have informed opinions about the present, or make good decisions about the future, you need historical knowledge.


How is history propaganda defense?

Governments can try to manipulate history to change public opinion and further their own interests, but this can be avoided with proper historical knowledge. Historical knowledge also punctures myths about the past.


How does history enrich our understanding of human nature?

It shows us what humans thought and did in a variety of situations, reminding us that human behavior cannot be neatly modeled or predicted.


Why should one be careful with the phrase, "History shows..."?

It can lead to self-realizing expectations. In other words, if you think something is bound to happen and cannot be changed, you won't bother trying to change it. History actually suggests that the future does not have to mirror the past.


Since the past no longer exists, it is tricky to study it. This can lead to

Extreme skepticism of past events, doubting their existence, or the idea that since the past no longer exists, it cannot be changed and is entirely objective.


What is the issue with saying that the past is entirely objective?

The past itself and knowledge of the past are two different things. The past itself cannot change. However, knowledge of the past comes from present evidence, which can easily be influenced and is therefore not entirely objective.


Why is objectivity important?

It lets us distinguish truth from lies.


What are primary sources?

Eyewitness accounts of an event.


What are secondary sources?

Later, second-hand accounts of an event based on primary sources in order to be valid.


What are three issues with primary sources?

Fallible eye-witnesses, social bias, and deliberate manipulation.


Why are eyewitnesses often fallible?

Two or more people writing about the same event usually create two different accounts because of their different backgrounds, and shaping history into a narrative can change it.


How does social bias affect primary sources?

Primaries often reflect the interest of 1 particular social group, distorting the picture by making it seem like the rest of the people followed the interests of that group. Ex: The illiterate often pass through history without a trace.


How can deliberate manipulation affect primaries?

Primary sources can be deliberately altered to change historical knowledge and emphasize/downplay certain events/people.


What is one defense against deliberate manipulation of primary sources?

Freedom of speech.


If primary sources are fallible, why shouldn't we discount them entirely?

We can determine reliable sources by learning about the author's interests and life and by comparing two or more primary sources from the same event. Primaries are all we have to determine the truth of history.


Which primary source is more likely to be biased: a legal/ administrative document or a diary?

A diary. For this reason, legal documents are usually good, unbiased primary sources.


How do historians often begin their investigations?

With a question about the past that reflects current preoccupations. Ex: studying the role of feminism in WW2.


How is history a selection of a selection?

History books are twice removed from the event because primary sources are interpretations, and history books are interpretations of those interpretations.


Does history being a selection of a selection make it difficult to find the truth? How can this be solved?

Yes, but historians can compensate for bias if they are aware of it by using different sources from different perspectives.


What does it mean to be selectively ignorant?

It is impossible to examine ALL the evidence that exists, so historians must choose which accounts are most valuable to use.


How is hindsight advantageous?

Since historians know how things turned out, they can sometimes describe things in ways only available in retrospect. Ex: Great War vs. WWI. Sometimes, being too close in time to an event prohibits us from understanding its significance.


How can hindsight affect historical knowledge over time?

Each new generation can reassess history with their new experiences.


When will history "close?"

When humanity ends.


What are the disadvantages of hindsight?

It can distort our understanding of the past by making us think that certain events were "inevitable" when they were actually very open and uncertain for those who lived through them. This is called hindsight bias.


Hindsight bias means that we are all good at...

being wise AFTER the event.


What are three reasons why people might believe history to be more biased than science?

Topic choice bias, confirmation bias, and national bias.


What is topic choice bias? How can this be combatted?

The historian's choice of topic may be influenced by current views, and his chosen questions may influence the answers he looks for; however, while there may be bias present, this does not always mean that it affects the historian's treatment of the topic.


What is confirmation bias? How can this be combatted?

Historians may only seek out supporting evidence instead of counter-evidence. However, good historians always seek out both.


What is national bias? How can this be combatted?

Historians may avoid topics that could hurt national pride, but this can be combatted by having rival historians from different backgrounds compare each others' work.


What does it mean to have a pluralistic approach to history?

Since there is no easy solution to bias, we should look at "history" as "histories" instead. This is called cubist history: looked at a variety of perspectives to find truth.


When we analyze history, what factor are we looking for?

The factor that made the difference. Ex: some believe that people are the main factors; others believe that economics or geography are more important.


What is the Great Person Theory of history?

It is the idea that the course of history is determined by great/significant individuals; ex: Hitler, Napoleon, Washington.


How can empathy be used to study history?

One theory is that all history is the history of thought, meaning that we can understand people's actions by empathizing with them and delving into their minds.


What are two limitations for using empathy in history?

It is hard to empathize with historical "monsters" like Hitler, and it is important to have a broad view of an event rather than just 1 perspective.


What is a criticism of the Great Person Theory?

It can exaggerate a person's role in history.


What is economic determinism theory?

The idea that history is determined by economic factors, such as key inventions and social structure.


Who proposed and championed economic determinism and what did he claim his theory allowed him to do?

Karl Marx. He claimed that economic determinism would be the natural law that allows us to determine the future by knowing the past.


Who critiqued Marx's theory and why?

Karl Popper; he said that if you could predict future discoveries, they would no longer be "future" by "present" discoveries, negating the original argument.


What do some people believe about the role of chance in history? Is this valid?

Some people believe that history is entirely random, but this is an extremist view. While "chance events" influence history, it is hard to say that it is entirely random. It is likely (according to the article) a mix of all three theories: great people, new tech, and chance.


History doesn't make us clever for next time but...

Wiser for all time.


Studying history to understand both the past and the present allows us to make...

good judgment about human affairs.