Porous Boundaries

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In what ways does historical knowledge progress?

For many people, it’s hard to think of a more static field of endeavour than history.  After all, everything that historians study happened in the past – often in the quite distant past – and the past, famously, doesn’t have the capacity to change. 

Those developing a TOK-related understanding may start to appreciate that things are not quite that black and white, as our current cultural values condition us to look differently at the same historical events than others who possess a different background would likely do.  

But what even a sophisticated TOK-aware person might miss is that some of those very values explicitly include historical categories themselves.  In this clip, Princeton University historian David Cannadine describes how recent historical understanding is beginning to re-assess the views that past historians thought were, well, written in stone.   

Excerpt from Rethinking History featuring Prof. David Cannadine, Princeton University

It’s worth mentioning that the filter of religious conflict is hardly the only one that Professor Cannadine takes aim at in his work on re-appraising what he calls the “boundaries of identity” as historical justification. In his book, The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, and virtually all of the associated Ideas Roadshow IBDP videos, he examines no less than six different categories of what he calls “collective identity and collective antagonism” – religion, nation, class, gender, race and civilization – to demonstrate that, properly viewed, a proper historical understanding is invariably vastly more complicated than most people recognize.

Related resources and supporting materials that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal to explicitly integrate TOK in history:  TOK Connections Guide for History, TOK Connections Guide for English A: Language & Literature, TOK Connections Guide for SCA, Rethinking History (TOK), Towards Better Explanations (TOK), The Historian’s Task (TOK), History TOK Sampler.


  

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