Authors: Arnold Toynbee

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English historian

Author Works


Nationality and the War, 1915

The New Europe, 1915

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, 1922

Greek Historical Thought from Homer to the Age of Heraclitus, 1924

Greek Civilisation and Character, 1924

The World After the Peace Conference, 1925

Turkey, 1926 (with K. P. Kirkwood)

A Journey to China, 1931

A Study of History, 1934–1961 (12 volumes)

Christianity and Civilization, 1940

Civilization on Trial, 1948

The Prospects of Western Civilization, 1949

The World and the West, 1953

An Historian’s Approach to Religion, 1956

Christianity Among the Religions of the World, 1957

East to West: A Journey Round the World, 1958

Hellenism: The History of a Civilization, 1959

Between Oxus and Jumma, 1961

The Present-Day Experiment in Western Civilization, 1962;

Between Niger and Nile, 1965

Hannibal’s Legacy: The Hannibalic War’s Effects on Roman Life, 1965 (2 volumes)

Cities on the Move, 1970

Surviving the Future, 1971


Among philosophers of history, Arnold Joseph Toynbee is unique in having made a profound appeal to scholars and general readers alike. His most impressive work is his twelve-volume A Study of History, which received immediate acclaim from historians and philosophers of history and afforded exciting reading to thousands who read the work through abridgements.{$I[AN]9810000307}{$I[A]Toynbee, Arnold}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Toynbee, Arnold}{$I[tim]1889;Toynbee, Arnold}

Arnold Toynbee

(Library of Congress)

Toynbee, born in London on April 14, 1889, was educated at Winchester and then at Balliol College, Oxford. His academic record enabled him to be a scholar at both schools. From 1912 to 1915 he was a fellow and tutor at Balliol. Later in his life, when his scholarly activities had given him distinguished status among commentators on history, he was awarded various honorary degrees from Oxford, Birmingham, Columbia, Cambridge, and Princeton Universities.

During World War I Toynbee worked at various governmental jobs, including a period with the British Foreign Office in 1918 as a member of the staff in the political intelligence department. He was a member of the Middle Eastern Section of the British Delegation to the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919.

Having engaged in the practical application of his knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs, Toynbee returned to academic life in his position as Koraes Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language, Literature, and History at London University from 1919 to 1924. Recognition of his increasing expertise in his fields brought him the distinction of becoming director of studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and research professor of international history at the University of London. He held these posts on a Sir Daniel Stevenson Foundation grant from 1925 until his retirement in 1955.

In the meantime Toynbee had initiated what developed into an impressive series of publications. In addition to writing such books as The New Europe, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, and Greek Historical Thought from Homer to the Age of Heraclitus, Toynbee, as both editor and writer, dealt with contemporary international history in a series of yearbooks with the general title Survey of International Affairs (1920-1946).

During World War II Toynbee was a director of foreign research and press services at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and from 1943 to 1946 he was director of the research department of the British Foreign Office. He was once again a member of the British delegation at the Peace Conference in 1946. Starting in 1934 he was an editor of British Commonwealth Relations. Toynbee’s monumental work in A Study of History had its beginnings in 1922; engaged in other tasks, he worked on the project intermittently until its completion in 1954, a period of study and writing at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, having enabled him to complete the final volumes. A frequent visitor to the United States, he made his permanent home in London.

The distinctive feature of Toynbee’s study of history is his claim that civilizations, not nations, are the determining factors in history, and that the life of a civilization is the story of its challenges and responses to environmental conditions. He provoked considerable critical attack with his contention that history shows the influence of God on historical events.

Toynbee’s last years were spent traveling and speaking throughout the world, including many trips to the United States, as well as in continued writing. He also spent much time defending his historical theories, primarily by defining and clarifying terms that he frequently used in his writing. He was continually in demand as a speaker and, although his health was failing, he always tried to comply. Toynbee and his wife finally retired to York, in northern England, where he died on October 22, 1975.

BibliographyMcNeill, William. Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Written at the request of Toynbee’s son, this is the authoritative biography.Perry, Marvin. Arnold Toynbee and the Western Tradition. New York: P. Lang, 1996. Places Toynbee’s work in the context of his time.Thompson, Kenneth W. Toynbee’s Philosophy of World History and Politics. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985. Relies on extracts from Toynbee’s writings.Toynbee, Arnold. Arnold Toynbee: A Selection from His Works, edited by E. W. F. Tomlin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. Defines and clarifies key phrases used repeatedly by Toynbee.Toynbee, Arnold. “The Way to Coexistence.” UNESCO Courier, February, 1994. A concise article.Urban, G. R. Toynbee on Toynbee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. Urban presents the published result of radio discussions with Toynbee.
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