International Baccalaureate Department
Theory of Knowledge Essay
“The historian’s task is to understand the past; the human scientist, by contrast, is looking to change the future.” To what extent is this true in these areas of knowledge?
Candidate Number: 000901-054
Exam session: May 2014
Topic 5: “The historian’s task is to understand the past; the human scientist, by contrast, is looking to change the future.” To what extent is this true in these areas of knowledge? History comes from the Greek word historia-ἱστορία which means "finding out". History is the branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events. It can also described as the knowledge acquired by investigation. History can be presented as formal written account of related natural phenomena; for example the history of the volcanoes’ in Hawaii Island. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn once said that "History has a long-range perspective". The dramatic histories of Shakespeare are also based on historical events. The person who studies and writes about history is called historian. A historian is a scholar or researcher who uses a wide range of tools, techniques and sources to understand the past and how societies and people have changed over time. Justice Charles Gray leant heavily on the research of one of the expert witnesses, Richard J. Evans, who compared illegitimate distortion of the historical record practice by holocaust with established historical methodologies.1 In summarising Gray's judgement, in an article published in the Yale Law Journal, Wendie E. Schneider distils these seven points for what he meant by an objective historian:2 1. The historian must treat sources with appropriate reservations; 2. The historian must not dismiss counterevidence without scholarly consideration; 3. The historian must be even-handed in treatment of evidence and eschew...