History is more than the study of the past. It is the process of recording, reconstructing and interpreting the past through the investigation of a variety of sources. It is a discipline that gives people an understanding of themselves and others in relation to the world, both past and present.
Students of history should learn how the discipline works. It is an exploratory subject that poses questions without providing definitive answers. In order to understand the past, students must engage with it both through exposure to primary historical sources and through the work of historians. Historical study involves both selection and interpretation of data and critical evaluation of it. Students of history should appreciate the relative nature of historical knowledge and understanding, as each generation reflects its own world and preoccupations and as more evidence emerges. A study of history both requires and develops an individual’s understanding of, and empathy for, people living in other periods and contexts.
Diploma Programme history consists of a standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) core syllabus comprising an in-depth study of an individual prescribed subject and the selection of two topics. Students and teachers have a choice of Route 1 that explores the main developments in the history of Europe and the Islamic world (from 500 to 1570) or Route 2 that encompasses the main developments in 20th century world history. HL students select from a range of optional syllabuses that cover a wider time span encouraging in-depth study.
Therefore, Diploma Programme history provides both structure and flexibility, fostering an understanding of major historical events in a global context. It requires students to make comparisons between similar and dissimilar solutions to common human situations, whether they be political, economic or social. It invites comparisons between, but not judgments of, different cultures, political systems and national traditions. The content of the history course is intrinsically interesting and it is hoped that many students who follow it will become fascinated with the discipline, developing a lasting interest in it, whether or not they continue to study it formally.
The international perspective in Diploma Programme history provides a sound platform for the promotion of international understanding and, inherently, the intercultural awareness necessary to prepare students for global citizenship. Above all, it helps to foster respect and understanding of people and events in a variety of cultures throughout the world.