Right, so I’m probably supposed to be finishing the final draft of my History internal assessment at the moment, but I thought it equally productive to write about History just generally on this TOK blog. In TOK we were talking about Historical bias, perspective, truth and whether we can in fact learn anything from the study of History.

One thing about History is that it is everywhere – in my opinion, it is everything. History is time. Because of this it is naturally influential; one can see the resulting effects of History all around us 24/7. Harking back to my internal assessment, the reason why I chose to write it on King John was because of a poem I read when I was a little girl – A.A. Milne’s King John’s Christmas.

King John was not a good man,
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air–
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.
King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon…
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself…

This is only the first two stanzas, it goes on for another page and a half so if you’d like to read it there’ll be a link just here (hopefully). I loved this poem but always wondered why “King John was not a good man”, and by studying his conflict with the then Pope, Innocent III I was able to do so. True, it did slightly take away some of the childish innocence and curiosity of the poem yet still, with the background knowledge I no longer read it just because I like the rhymes and rhythm of it, but also because I understand the reasons behind it.

Sometimes one can’t help but wonder whether if we truly understood the History of the events that have past we could, not just necessarily find more enjoyment in the world around us, but consequently sort out the fickle misunderstandings and conflicts that plague our society today. I’m in no way likening the understanding of a childhood poem to the inter-cultural rifts present in our world but still, wouldn’t it be nice if it was just that simple? But I’m going to go off on an ethical tangent in a second so I’ll quit while I’m ahead and save which ever poor soul may be reading this…


One thought on “History

  1. A lovely post, Olivia. I really like the idea that your childhood love of Milne’s poem could have been the spark for your interest in King John. ‘History is everything’ is a dangerous statement because such claims might also be saying nothing at all (like a ‘theory of everything’). However, I think that there’s more to it than that. If History is time, as you say, then the causal links which have led to this point are all important in explaining where we are now. And if, as Chaos Theory suggests, these causal links are not immediately apparent or obvious, then everything is (potentially) drawn in. It would be nice to think that we could learn from history- it would make its study not just abstract or for personal interest but practical and moral. I have to say- the evidence isn’t good that we do, though! Human empathy could/ should help to improve the world we live in now- and the study of history could/ should enable us to develop this. However, as John Gray argues, in spite of enormous progress in technology, morally, we don’t seem to have developed at all as a species. It doesn’t mean that we should give up. It might mean that we should try to focus on avoiding the worst possible outcomes (genocide, environmental degradation), rather than wasting time in trying to achieve the best, though.

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