IB TOK Real life situation: Richard III: King in the Car Park?

There are historical facts and there are historical interpretations.

  • Historical fact: The battle of Bosworth Field took place on 22 August 1485 and saw the defeat of the Richard III, and the victory of Henry VII, marking the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.
  • Historical interpretation: Richard III was a bad King, responsible for the death of his two nephews, the sons of his late brother, Edward IV.

The Richard III Society would have you believe that the negative view of Richard; the hunch-backed uncle who murdered his nephews, was Tudor propaganda and spin, compounded by Shakespeare’s depiction of him in the play Richard III.

Why does this matter and where are the TOK knowledge questions? If we take the real life situation below it’s full of TOK knowledge questions and ripe for TOK analysis. The following example could be used as the basis for a TOK presentation.

  • Real life example: the controversy about where the remains alleged to be those of Richard III should be buried and the recent legal ruling that the remains will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.



On 5 September 2012 a skeleton was excavated from a car park in Leicester, the site of the Greyfriars friary, believed to be where the remains of Richard III were buried. A combination of scientific tests and historical interpretation has lead some people to the conclusion that these are the remains of King Richard III.

  • General questions:
  1. What do historians know about Richard from history? What are the facts, and what are the different interpretations?
  2. Was he a good or a bad king? How do we know and what evidence would we draw on to support both views?
  3. What scientific tests have been used on the remains found?
  4. What is an appropriate place and an appropriate ceremony for the re-burial of the remains?
  5. On what grounds can a court of law make a ruling about a case that is so unique and with no precedent?
  6. What does the Richard III Society believe about Richard and why? http://www.richardiii.net/whats_new.php
  • Knowledge questions:
  1. To what extent do history and science offer a reliable method for gaining knowledge?
  2. To what extent does knowledge in history and science depend on facts and interpretations?
  3. To what extent is our knowledge in history and science certain, beyond reasonable doubt?

For more information see the Channel 4 on demand programme ‘Richard III: King in the car park’.


‘When a skeleton was reported found under a Leicester council car park in September 2012, the news broke around the world. Could it be the remains, lost for 500 years, of England’s most infamous king?’

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