8. TOK and Richard I

The materials on this page are to supplement and compliment the content on the Richard I pages. They can be used for starter activities, class activities, homework, research, broader enrichment of a topic or developing a critical framework within history. They may also be used for subject specialist teachers delivering aspects of the TOK curriculum.

See also the page on general TOK for other activites: Theory of Knowledge

History and Sense Perception

How we 'see' something, affects how we gain knowledge about it. The verb 'seeing' has a number of meanings including:

(a) how something actually appears to our senses;

(b) how we perceive something to be in the mind;

(c) what perspective we hold on something and

(d) how we construct something in our mind.

How we gain knowledge about something shapes the way we evaluate and judge that thing. How something is mediated to us also shapes our reception of it as well as our internalisation of how we ought to understand that thing. Look at the following depiction of Queen of Sybilla in Ridley Scott's film Kingdom of Heaven (2005):

[Eva Green as Queen Sibylla in Kingdom of Heaven]

Historian Steve Gertz in a short article on the Huffington Post entitled "Edward Said and the Problem of the Harem" writes:

...for even today Westerners portray the Orient in sensual ways. I remember as a graduate student in Oxford regularly passing by a high-end shop with the name of “Sahara” that had an Arab-looking mannequin with silky clothing in a seductive pose (I never went in, but I think the store must have sold lingerie). Movies play a part in perpetuating this stereotype of Middle Eastern women as well. Take, for example, the character Sibylla in Sir Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005), a Crusader queen who has ‘indigenized’ and is presented to viewers as exotic and erotic. Discerning persons will know such images are not representative of women in the Middle East, but stereotypes like these do nonetheless have a way of seeping into and coloring our perceptions of the region. Said’s criticism of such ideas continues to be germane.

 The context of Gertz's remark is Said's passage from his groundbreaking work Orientalism:

Edward W. Said

Woven through all of Flaubert's Oriental experiences, exciting or disappointing, is an almost uniform association between the Orient and sex. In making this association Flaubert was neither the first nor the most exaggerated instance of a remarkably persistent motif in Western attitudes to the Orient . . . Why the Orient seems still to suggest not only fecundity but sexual promise (and threat), untiring sensuality, unlimited desire, deep generative energies, is something on which one could speculate... Nevertheless one must acknowledge its importance as something eliciting complex responses, sometimes even a frightening self-discovery, in the Orientalists, and Flaubert was an interesting case in point.

Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), p.188. For a critique, see Robert Irwin's For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies outlined here.

[Miniature of Sybilla]

On an account of women within the orientalist construction, see the article “Edward Said's Orientalism and the Representation of Oriental Women in George Orwell’s Burmese Days by Shabarinad and Marandi here.

ATL Skills: Communication and Thinking Critically


1. What role do you think imagination as a way of knowing has on the way history is constructed or reinterpreted?

2. Given the above, what dangers (limitations) do you think imagination could have in relation to history?

3. Other than imagination, what additional way of knowing could affect the way history is reconstructed and thereby affecting how others gain knowledge of historical information? Discuss.

(you can also write your answers).

ATL Skills: Research and Communication


Read the article by James Patrick here entitled, "The Crusade and Crusader Memory". Use it (and any other relevant material you have researched) for the following task:

If you were invited on a film review show as a film critic and historian and asked about how Richard I was depicted in Hollywood productions throughout the 20th century, what would you say? What would be your main points and why? How would all this be relevant to how we gain knowledge about Richard as a historical figure?

History and Reason

Some of the functions of a historian include:

  1. collecting data.
  2. interpreting data.
  3. analysing data.
  4. formulating theories about the data.
  5. synthesising the data with existing data.

Some argue that historians cannot obtain objective (unfiltered, untainted and unaltered) knowledge of the past because they never uncover what is actually there as it is (if indeed it is there) but only present what they think it is through the powers of interpretation, reasoning and speculation. Thus, on this view, objective facts about the past are not recoverable at all. On this issue of objectivism/relativism dichotomy, historian Suzannah Lipscomb writes in History Today:

History is debate, history is discussion, history is a conversation ... Yet the truth is, if you take a group of historians working on the same problem, writing at different times and in different places – even if they all use their evidence in a scrupulous, honest, critical and informed way – the conclusions they reach may differ. This is because we are all different people; our context, our formation, our insights are different and the histories we write are personal. If it were not so, there would be little point training up more students to be historians.

ATL Skills: Communication and Thinking Critically

The eminent historian Peter Novick (d.2012) is said to have quipped about historians that they "make no greater (but also no lesser) truth claims than poets or painters".

What do you think he meant by that statement?

Use Lipscomb's article cited above and any wider reading to discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.

ATL Skills: Research and Communication


If you had to devise a set of 5 principles for understanding, analysing, interpreting and evaluating historical sources/data, what would they be and why?

(share your principles with others in your class and see what you come up with).

[ensure you apply your own principles when studying in class to see if they work or if they are effective in attaining your goal as a historian].

History and Dichotomies

Below are three dichotomies:

  1. dichotomy #1: found or discovered.

  2. dichotomy #2: objective or subjective.

  3. dichotomy #3: neutral or emotive.

Applied to history, we have:

  1. "Historical truth is either found or discovered".

  2. "Historical fact is either objective or subjective".

  3. "Historical data is either neutral or value-laden".

ATL Skills: Research and Communication


Research one of these dichotomies and create a short presentation (PPT, short video, slide, etc.) about the key issues related to that dichotomy (up to 3 issues) when applied to history. Use examples from the materials you have studied on Richard I.

You must ensure that:

1. You state the dichotomy clearly.

2. You state the example(s) used from Richard I.

3. You clearly show the link and connection between the dichotomy and the example.

4. Cite the sources you have relied on.

[One article to help you get started, by Jake Priddy, is available here: "The Mythologization of History: Objectivity, Relativism and the Search for Truth."

History and Ethics

Answer the questions below. You must use examples to support your argument and points from Richard I:

ATL Skills: Thinking Critically and Communication

'Historians have an ethical responsibility to produce fact-based historical knowledge?' To what extent do you agree with this statement (15)

ATL Skills: Thinking Critically and Communication

'We must see and understand things as they are not as we are.' Discuss this claim in relation to ethics and history.

(note: History examples used in answering this question must be from Richard I).

Possible points to think about here:

1. ethical duty to the truth?

2. different perspectives (cultural , political religious...).

3. Bias.

4. Selectivity of evidence.

5. Objectivity/subjectivity in history.

History and Language

The role of language is extremely important within history. Two ways history is enhanced or enriched through language are:

  • Most of our communication of events is via language. This allows for preserving not only historical information (e.g. about Richard I) but also allows for historical interpretation to be passed down through generations (e.g. the depiction and understanding of Richard over the centuries).
  • Primary historical sources are largely language based (e.g. Richard in English or Latin). Language allows us access to alternative perspectives and interpretations of the sources (e.g. views about Richard from Arabic sources).
ATL Skills: Thinking Critically and Communication


1. Refer to some of the sources on Richard within the site and examine:

(a) the nature of the language of the source(s),

(b) the aim of the language of the source(s)

(c) the effect of of this language on the reader/learner.

2. Discuss the role of reason and language in the historiography of Richard I.

History and Intuition

ATL Skills: Thinking Critically and Communication

1. How would you define Intuition?

2. How would you define history?

3. What role do you think intuition plays in the construction and documentation of history?

You may want to consider the following:

  • how we intuitively trust a source.
  • how a hunch may lead to a breakthrough.
  • when winners write history they intuitively depict themselves as heroes.

History and Imagination

Below is a short account of R. G. Collingwood's theory and approach to history. a helpful account can be found by Lynn Lemisko here.

R. G. Collingwood (d. 1943)

Collingwood was a renown philosopher and historian. His theories about historical methodology came out of his resistance to what is called the positivist or scientific approach to knowledge construction that was being adopted by all subject areas at the turn of the 20th century. Collingwood believed that there was a fundamental difference between history and the natural sciences. He believed that the scientific method, which includes the observation of phenomena, measuring, classifying and generating ‘laws’ based on the observations, was a perfectly legitimate way of knowing the natural world. However, Collingwood argued that history is fundamentally different in its methodology because the events that historians study have both an outside or observable part, and an inside or unobservable part (thoughts, ideas, intentions, motivations). By the “outside” of historical events, Collingwood meant the part of the historical event which could have been perceived using our sense perception; for example, if we lived during the Third Crusade, we would have been able to see the movement of Richard’s army during the siege of Acre or the battle of Arsuf. By the “inside” of historical events, Collingwood meant the thoughts of the people involved in the event which caused them or motivated them to act as they did before, during and after the event. For example, the inside of the Third Crusade includes the thoughts of the particular crusaders, knights, generals and even Richard himself. Collingwood argued that historical knowledge is fundamentally different from knowledge about the natural world because it involves knowing both the outside/observable and the inside/unobservable dimensions.

Collingwood highlighted another fundamental difference between knowing things in the present (or in the natural sciences) and knowing the past (or history). To come to know things in the present or about things in the natural sciences, we can observe real things - things that are in existence or that persist and endure right now. The problem with coming to know things about history, however, is that while past human actions did really happen, these actions took place in the past – they have elapsed. These actions, then, have no real existence or substance at the point in time that the historian is studying them. What Richard and Saladin did specifically during the Third Crusade are no longer accessible because they are not immediate to the historian. Based on the understanding that the events and actions that historians study have already elapsed - that they are finished and so cannot actually be observed - Collingwood claimed that the historian must use their imaginations to reconstruct and understand the past. Because we cannot observe human events that have already taken place, he argued that we must imagine them from the available sources they have. The way to (re)imagine them is through (i) re-enactment: i.e. the historian steps into the mind of the historical person and situation and relives it; (ii) interpolation: i.e. the historian fills the gaps in where the sources are not explicit or clear (reconstructing) and (iii) interrogation: i.e. the historian asks critical questions about the sources and what they suggest.

ATL Skills: Research, Thinking Critically and Communication


1. What might be a limitation of Collingwood's method? Explain your answer in detail.

2. Read the article cited in the link above by Lemisko on Collingwood's approach to history and make notes. Share your notes with your classmates to produce a set of comprehensive notes.

3. Either select one aspect from Richard's life and apply Collingwood's method of re-enactment, interpolation and interrogation and document your results or select a textbook written about Richard and identify whether or not passages in it contains Collingwood's method of re-enactment, interpolation and interrogation.

4. Canadian professor of history and pedagogy Peter Seixas commented:

…[empathy or historical perspective-taking] is the ability to see and understand the world from a perspective not our own. In that sense, it requires us to imagine ourselves in the position of another. However - and this is crucial - such imagining must be based firmly on historical evidence if it is to have any meaning.

Seixas, "The place of History within Social Studies", in Wright and Sears (eds.), Trends and Issues in Canadian Social Studies (Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press, 1997), p.123.

To what extent do you agree with Seixas's comment. Give reasons for your answer.

Nature vs. Nurture

One of the oldest debates in the human sciences is the Nature vs Nurture debate or genes vs. environment. Proponents on both sides have good and strong points. The key issue is whether a person’s development is predisposed in h/her DNA, or a majority of it is influenced by h/her life experiences and environment. Current scientific studies seem to suggest that both nature and nurture play important roles in human development, but we have not known yet whether we are developed majorly because of nature or due to nurture.

Read the excerpt below on Richard by McLynn, called Lionheart and Lackland (London: Random House, 2006), p.1:

ATL Skills: Research, Thinking Critically and Communication


1. Is "nature versus nurture" a false dichotomy? Discuss.

2. Richard "seemed to be Arthur redivivus..." what do you think this means and why do you think such a comparison is important for those at the time and beyond?

3. Is the 'good king bad king' applied to Richard and John a historian's construction?

4. What do you think made Richard great - his nature or environment? complete the task in the link below:

Richard as nature vs. nurture

History and Ideology

At the Guardian Hay Festival, history professor Tom Asbridge who specialises in the crusades made remarks about the misconstrual and misrepresentation of Richard and Saladin:

This is a manipulation of history, not a reality. I believe there is no division linking the medieval past and the conflict of the crusades with the modern world ... [It’s a] misunderstanding which goes back to the 19th century and western triumphalism in emerging colonialism, and the tendency of western historians to start to glorify the crusades as a proto-colonial enterprise, an [obsession] with Richard the Lionheart and a burgeoning interest in [Muslim leader] Saladin as almost the noble savage...

ATL Skills: Research, Thinking Critically and Communication


1. What do you think professor Asbridge's remarks mean?

2. Where do you believe Richard I has been misrepresented or miscontrued? Give examples and explain your answer.

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