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Prodigious Powers

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 21 January 1982

The Greeks and their Heritages 
by Arnold Toynbee.
Oxford, 334 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 19 215256 4
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... work provides yet more evidence of the phenomenal energy and wide range of information of the late Arnold Toynbee. He returns to a question which had interested him from the start of his career, and in order to appreciate the application to it of his mature method, a summary of that career is needed. It can be given with the help of the obituary notice ...

When the pistol goes off

Peter Clarke, 17 August 1989

Arnold ToynbeeA Life 
by William McNeill.
Oxford, 346 pp., £16.95, July 1989, 0 19 505863 1
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... currently selling 1,500,000 copies. For the editors, as they put it, ‘the story of Historian Toynbee and his work in progress was an unusual challenge and opportunity.’ The response was ‘overwhelming’, and not only from ‘professors of history, philosophy and anthropology, from deans of American colleges and universities, heads of public and ...

An Urbane Scholar in a Wilderness of Tigers

Robert Irwin: Albert Hourani, 25 January 2001

A Vision of the Middle East: An Intellectual Biography of Albert Hourani 
by Abdulaziz Al-Sudairi.
Tauris, 221 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9781860645815
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... it was ‘a wilderness of tigers’. While at Chatham House, Hourani came under the influence of Arnold Toynbee, the historian of the rise and fall of civilisations. Kedourie, on the other hand, despised Chatham House’s penchant for liberal hand-wringing, as well as what he perceived as the institution’s readiness to fudge unpleasant realities about ...

The G-Word

Mark Mazower: The Armenian Massacres, 8 February 2001

The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-16: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Falloden by Viscount Bryce Uncensored Edition 
by James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, edited by Ara Sarafian.
Gomidas Institute, 677 pp., £32, December 2000, 0 9535191 5 5
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... and published evidence of their wrong-doing. James Bryce, who together with the young historian Arnold Toynbee was responsible for the dossier submitted to Edward Grey, was a Gladstonian Liberal with an interest in the Armenians – and a contempt for Turkish rule – which stretched back forty years. Bryce and ...

Sudden Losses of Complexity

Edmund Leach, 10 November 1988

The Collapse of Complex Societies 
by Joseph Tainter.
Cambridge, 250 pp., £27.50, June 1988, 0 521 34092 6
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... And that is the trouble. Tainter freely admits that he is trying to do the same sort of thing as Arnold Toynbee attempted in his 12-volume Study of History or Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West, but on a very reduced scale – just 215 pages. I am puzzled as to why the practice of archaeology should lead its practitioners into fantasies of this ...

Homage to Braudel

Geoffrey Parker, 4 September 1980

Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe – XVIIIe siécle 
by Fernand Braudel.
Armand Colin, 544 pp.
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... book possesses all the ingredients of a cult book, like the much-criticised Study of History by Arnold Toynbee, some thirty years ago. As a dollar-earner, we were told at the time, Toynbee’s opus ranked second only to whisky. Perhaps, one day, Braudel’s writings will stand in the export figures beside butter and ...

Stop the war

Penelope Lively, 1 April 1982

The Parting of Ways: A Personal Account of the Thirties 
by Shiela Grant Duff.
Peter Owen, 223 pp., £10.50, March 1982, 0 7206 0586 5
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From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 185 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 0 233 97232 3
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Dwellers All in Time and Space: A Memory of the 1940s 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 227 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 233 97434 2
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... sent to find out about, and declined, human response triumphing over journalistic instinct. It was Arnold Toynbee who set her on her course as a newspaperwoman (‘the way to stop war was to study the possible causes on the spot and the best way to do that was to work as the foreign correspondent of an influential newspaper’). She tried the Times, and ...

Why Rhino-Mounted Bantu Never Sacked Rome

Armand Marie Leroi, 4 September 1997

Guns, Germs and Steel 
by Jared Diamond.
Cape, 480 pp., £18.99, April 1997, 0 224 03809 5
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Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality 
by Jared Diamond.
Weidenfeld, 176 pp., £11.99, July 1997, 0 297 81775 2
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... of Homo leucodermaticus whose pet name (given him by Nietzsche) is the ‘Blond Beast’. Thus Arnold Toynbee in the opening volume of his magisterial (and misguided) Study of History (1933). Toynbee sought to explain why civilisations rise and fall, but before he could do so he had to deal with the theorists of the ...

Do come to me funeral

Mary Beard: Jessica Mitford, 5 July 2007

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford 
edited by Peter Sussman.
Weidenfeld, 744 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 297 60745 6
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... careers. H.W. Stubbs of Charterhouse went on to teach classics at the University of Exeter. Philip Toynbee was expelled from Rugby, but then handed over to the monks of Ampleforth to be crammed, successfully, for a history scholarship to Oxford. John Peet ended up as head of the Reuters bureau in Berlin, before defecting to the East in 1950. Gavin Ewart, whose ...

More Pasts Than One

Eric Foner, 23 March 1995

Telling the Truth about History 
by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob.
Norton, 322 pp., £19.95, August 1994, 0 393 03615 4
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... historical writing can somehow be disconnected from the point of view of the historian. It was Arnold Toynbee in A Study of History, not some modern Afrocentrist, who urged scholars to abandon the parochial idea that ‘Western Society’s history’ was equivalent to “ ‘History” writ large.’ Perhaps most important, today’s proponents of ...

The Prodigal Century

David Blackbourn: Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century by John McNeill, 7 June 2001

Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century 
by John McNeill.
Penguin, 448 pp., £8.99, August 2001, 0 14 029509 7
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... not adopt. His book is explicitly anthropocentric – he distances himself from the approach of Arnold Toynbee in ‘The Roman Revolution from the Flora’s Point of View’, where speaking roles were given to plants. By implication, at least, he would also reject the injunction of the American environmental historian Donald Worster that we learn to ...

C (for Crisis)

Eric Hobsbawm: The 1930s, 6 August 2009

The Morbid Age: Britain between the Wars 
by Richard Overy.
Allen Lane, 522 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 7139 9563 3
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... Philip Noel-Baker, George Orwell, Lord Arthur Ponsonby, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Arnold Toynbee, the Webbs, H.G. Wells or Leonard and Virginia Woolf? Unless clearly backed by an important publishing house or journal, as with Victor Gollancz or Kingsley Martin’s New Statesman, or an actual mass organisation like Lord Robert Cecil’s ...

Living and Dying in Ireland

Sean O’Faolain, 6 August 1981

... rays of a sunrise upthrown from below its horizon but halted there. One reason at least for what Arnold Toynbee called this aborted Celtic civilisation must have been social. All our life-ways remained for far too long based on social structures dependent on the primitive idea of the local Ruler, while Europe was developing the more powerful concept of ...

Conor Cruise O’Zion

David Gilmour, 19 June 1986

The Siege: The Saga of Zionism and Israel 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 798 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 297 78393 9
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... his usual criteria for making judgments and urges us to do the same. ‘Right and wrong,’ Arnold Toynbee wrote, ‘are the same in Palestine as anywhere else. What is peculiar about the Palestine conflict is that the world has listened to the party that has committed the offence and has turned a deaf ear to the victims.’ For Dr O’Brien, right ...

Elton at seventy

Patrick Collinson, 11 June 1992

Return to Essentials: Some Reflections on the Present State of Historical Study 
by G.R. Elton.
Cambridge, 128 pp., £16.95, October 1991, 0 521 41098 3
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... Hill), but Elton reserves some of his ammunition for the alternative, liberal determinists, Arnold Toynbee, Sir John Plumb, J.H. Hexter, while not forgetting that morally admirable but woefully misled and misleading Christian Socialist R.H. Tawney, who was first denounced in Elton’s inaugural of 1968 as ‘a very good man’ whose work as a ...

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