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Arnold J. Toynbee

Encarta: Biographical Note

 
Toynbee, Arnold Joseph (1889-1975), British historian, known for his view of the past as a succession of civilizations rather than political entities.

Toynbee was born on April 14, 1889, and educated at Balliol College, University of Oxford. From 1912 to 1915 he was a fellow and tutor in ancient history at Balliol College, and he served as professor of modern Greek and Byzantine history at the University of London from 1919 to 1924. From 1925 until his retirement in 1955 he was director of studies in the Royal Institute of International Affairs and research professor of international history at the University of London. He served in the Foreign Office of the British government during World War I and World War II and represented the British government at the peace conferences following both wars. He died in York, England, on October 22, 1975.

Of the many books written by Toynbee, the 12-volume series A Study of History (1934-61) has had considerable influence on modern attitudes toward history, religion, and international affairs. This monumental work is based on Toynbee's thesis that history reflects the progress of civilizations or societies rather than of nations. It is a comparative study of 26 civilizations in world history, analyzing their genesis, growth, and disintegration. According to Toynbee's hypothesis, the failure of a civilization to survive was the result of its inability to respond to moral and religious challenges, rather than to physical or environmental challenges. Among the other books written by Toynbee are The Western Question in Greece and Turkey (1922), The World and the West (1953), Acquaintances (1967), and Experiences (1969). Although admired for his vast scholarship and deeply philosophical approach, Toynbee was also criticized for his tendency to generalize and to stress regeneration through 


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