Skip to Main Content
WAB Faculty & Staff

Theory of Knowledge: History

resources for TOK at WAB

Concepts in History

Is there an accepted ‘historical method’ of producing knowledge about the past?



"It is generally accepted that, despite the...repetitions of history, it does move forward from the old to the new."  (Richardson 1966)


"Time is the conceptual axis inevitably underpinning traditional forms of Western historical narration, yet its cultural construction is not often explicitly discussed...Recently postcolonial studies gave momentum to the calling into question of categories such as modernityprogresscrisisrevolution."  (Source)

What is a historical explanation and on what criteria could such explanations be evaluated?

 If it is difficult to establish proof in history, or are all versions are equally acceptable?    Is it inevitable that historians will be affected by their own cultural context?  How do we decide?

Things that make you go hmmm....

What is unique about the methodology of history compared to other areas of knowledge? On what criteria can a historian evaluate the reliability of their sources?

Can we access the truth about the past?     Is everything we know historical?

Does history foretell / predict the future?   How might prior beliefs be beneficial or damaging to historical knowledge?

Do different perspectives help or hinder us from understanding the past?  What and who determines how we reconstruct the past?

How do visual sources change our understanding of the past?   Does technology allow us to access the past less or more accurately?

BBC Documentary:  In the 1930s the Nazi leaders attempted to reconstruct Germany's history. At the Nuremberg trials, Allied prosecutors tried to rewrite the history of the war for different reasons. Was either side successful?   How did these attempts affect future generations?

  Are historians’ accounts necessarily subjective?