Thinkers on history
These thinkers will provide you with brilliant insights into the world, and help you to consolidate your understanding of history.
You can draw on their ideas to help develop and justify your TOK essay arguments, and add depth and authority to the assertions you make about knowledge. To explore them in more detail, consult our Knowledge Heroes resource.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. 1977)
Adichie (b. 1977) is an award-winning writer and public speaker from Nigeria. She is one of our knowledge heroes, appearing in the BQ lessons to help us to explore how ‘single stories’ can feed into our confirmation bias to hinder us from understanding the past and the present.
EH Carr (1892 – 1982)
Carr was a British historian, journalist, and left-wing thinker, whose 14 volume history of Russia was still unfinished at the time of his death. He is one of our knowledge heroes, helping us to explore how to pursue history (and other areas of knowledge) in an objective way.
Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)
Churchill was a soldier, politician, writer, and historian. He was the British leader during the Second World War. He is one of our knowledge heroes, helping us to explore how history is written, and by whom.
John Lewis Gaddis (b. 1941)
Gaddis is an American ‘Cold War’ historian whose developing views on what caused the conflict typify how historical opinion changes as a result of new evidence being discovered.
John Gray (b. 1948)
Gray is an English philosopher who focuses on analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He is one of our knowledge heroes, appearing in the BQ lessons to help us to explore the extent to which we can rely on the human sciences in ascertaining whether society is progressing or not.
Herodotus (c.484 BC – c.425 BC)
Herodotus is regarded as one of the fathers of history because he was, along with Thucydides, the first writer to collect evidence systematically, and use it to support his narrative accounts of what happened in the past.
Levin is a historian who specializes in the American Civil War, and the history of Confederate monuments. He is one of our knowledge heroes, helping us to explore how the way in which opposing sides seek to win the war over history, and how that is the most significant struggle.
Arthur Marwick (1936 – 2006)
Marwick was an Edinburgh and Oxford-educated social and cultural historian. He is particularly interesting when talking about things that get in the way of historians doing their job properly, such as political or social agendas, seeing elements of popular culture as secondary rather than primary sources, and simplifying past events or discerning patterns where there are none.
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)
Marx was a German economist, historian, socialist, and philosopher. He is, of course, best known for his phiolsophy of Marxism, which proposed that human societies develop via a social struggle between different interest groups.
Steven Pinker (b. 1954)
Pinker, a Harvard professor, is one of the best known popular science writers in the world, and his books on psychology have sold millions of copies. He is one of our knowledge heroes, helping us to explore whether we can measure whether society is improving over time.
Edward Said (1935 – 2003)
Said was a Palestinian writer and historian, who wrote extensively on on post-colonialism, and the way in which the ‘west’ perceives the ‘east’.
George Santayana (1863 – 1952)
Santayana was a Spanish-American pragmatist philosopher and writer. His views on history, and the necessity of learning it, can be summed up by his famous maxim: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
AJP Taylor (1906 – 1990)
Taylor was an Oxford historian who wrote extensively on aspects of 19th century and 20th century European political history. From an early age, Taylor was brilliant and rebellious, and both of these traits are highly visible in his revisionist ideas on the causes of the Second World War, which shattered the historical paradigm of the time.
Thucydides (c. 460BC – c.395BC)
Thucydides is regarded as one of the fathers of history because he was, along with Herodotus, the first writer to collect evidence systematically, and use it to support his narrative accounts of what happened in the past. He is worth comparing and contrasting to his Greek peer.
Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914 – 2003)
Trevor-Roper was an aristocratic Oxford historian who specialized in modern history. His view of the causes of the Second World War were a complete contrast to his peer AJP Taylor’s – illustrating how historians from the same time can come to completely different conclusions. His name was forever tarnished by his role in the Hitler diary episode.
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