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Summary Article: Toynbee, Arnold Joseph
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1889–1975, English historian; nephew of Arnold Toynbee. Educated at Oxford, he served in the British foreign office during World Wars I and II and was a delegate (1919) to the Paris Peace Conference. He was professor of Greek language and history (1919–55) at the Univ. of London and director of studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (1925–55). A prolific scholar, Toynbee achieved his greatest fame for his monumental work, A Study of History (12 vol., 1934–61), which appeared in an abridgment by D. C. Somervell (2 vol., 1946–57). In the Study of History, an investigation into the growth, development, and decay of civilizations, the problems of history are considered in terms of cultural groups rather than nationalities. The main thesis of the work is that the well-being of a civilization depends on its ability to respond successfully to challenges, human and environmental. Of the 26 civilizations studied, according to Toynbee, only one—Western Latin Christendom—is currently alive, and perhaps even this in decline. He has been criticized for arbitrary generalizations, factual errors, and overemphasizing the regenerative force of religion. Toynbee helped to write and edit A Survey of International Affairs and produced works on a multitude of historical topics.

  • See the biography by W. H. McNeill (1989);.
  • study by K. Thompson (1985).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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