John Everett Millais, The Boyhood of Raleigh, Royal Academy, 1871, Tate Britain; click for full resolution
The young Walter Raleigh and his brother. I presume his full, older brother Carew. Influenced by an essay by James Anthony Froude, England’s Forgotten Worthies, in Short Studies on Great Subjects, First Series, 1867, and perhaps by a contemporaneous biography which imagined Raleigh’s boyhood.
Background painted at Budleigh Salterton, near Exeter. According to Millais’ biographer, Marion Spielmann, the sailor, a professional model, was intended to be Genoese. He perhaps points to the Spanish Main. Millais’ sons modelled for the boys. There is a model ship in the foreground.
If Millais had been a more imaginative painter, he would surely have included a still-life element to hint at or predict his subject’s execution. Is there something?
Archive for the 'Historiography' Category
One of Namier’s eyes was a rabbinical scholar’s. He was proudly conscious of his descent from the Gaon of Vilna. The other eye was a Polish landowner’s. His family were Roman Catholic (Latin rite) landowners of Jewish origin in the eastern part of Galicia [post here]. Galicia was at that time one of the crown lands of the Empire of Austria. It is divided to-day between two Communist republics: Poland and the Ukrainian constituent republic of the Soviet Union.
Namier’s hereditary rabbinical eye for minutiæ is surely part of the secret of his success in applying the prosopographical method to the study of 18th-century British politics. After he and I had each struck out our different lines of inquiry, Namier once said to me that at least we resembled each other in dealing with history differently from the way followed by most contemporary historians.
“You,” he said, “try to look at the whole tree. I try to dissect the tree’s texture, leaf by leaf. Most of the others break off a branch and try to cope with that. You and I agree,” Namier added, “in not favouring that method.”
Namier’s vein of Jewishness was, of course, not exclusively intellectual. He had also inherited a Jewish emotional intensity and even fanaticism. [Toynbee has a habit of equating Jewish with fanatical. Namier’s Zionism led to a temporary rift with Toynbee.] So, when he discovered the 17th-century English Puritan writers, their spirit struck an answering chord in him. They, and not their Laodicean 18th-century successors, were Namier’s first love in his wooing of England past and present.
Meanwhile, Namier’s other eye – his Polish Roman Catholic one – was also making penetrating observations of English life; and here, too, Namier saw things to which our native English eyes had been blind, because we had taken these things for granted. I remember his excitement over his discovery of the emotional timbre that is given to the English language by the use of Biblical quotations and allusions. This was a stop which the organ of the Polish language did not possess, and which therefore caught Namier’s ear when he listened to the music of English speech. The Biblical note was lacking in the Polish language, for Roman Catholics of the Latin rite the Bible was imprisoned in the Latin of the Vulgate. There was no consecrated and familiar translation in the vernacular which could influence the living language, as King James I’s authorised version of the Bible has influenced the English language ever since it was published.
Lewis Namier, Historian, Encounter, Vol 16, No 1, January 1961 (more from this in yesterday’s post)
The Augustinian version of a Judaic view of history was taken for granted by Western Christian thinkers throughout the first millennium (circa A.D. 675-1675) of the Western Civilization’s life and was reformulated – to incorporate the additions made to Western knowledge since the fifteenth century of the Christian Era by an Italian renaissance of Hellenism and an Iberian conquest of the Ocean – in a Discours sur l’Histoire Universelle published in A.D. 1681 by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (vivebat A.D. 1627-1704). The Eagle of Meaux’s majestic variation on a traditional Judaic theme was, however, the last serious Western performance of this spiritual masterpiece; for, while Bossuet was in the act of writing his classic discourse, a spiritual revolution was taking place around him in his world. Within the brief span of the last few decades of the seventeenth century of the Christian Era, a Western World that was exorcizing a stalking ghost of Hellenism was at the same time liquidating its own ancestral Judaic Weltanschauung.
Apropos the stalking ghost, we have earlier (referring to literary culture perhaps too much in isolation):
The Humanists’ revival of the art of writing quantitative Latin and Greek verse in a correct Hellenic style was followed, not by an eclipse of a native Western literature that was flying its own proper colours unabashed, but by a fresh outburst of it in a blaze which effectively took the shine out of the Humanists’ frigid academic exercises.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
A belief that the whole life of the Universe was governed by “the Law of God” was the qiblah of a Judaic Weltanschauung that was the common heritage of the Orthodox Christian, the Western Christian, the Arabic Muslim, and the Iranic Muslim societies; and a theocentric philosophy of history derived from the intuitions or inspirations of the Prophets of Israel and Judah and the Iranian Prophet Zarathustra was bequeathed to Western Christendom in Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei and to the Arab Muslim World in Ibn Khaldūn’s Prolegomena to his History of the Berbers – two works of spiritual genius which unmistakably reflect one single common outlook and whose mutual affinity can only be accounted for by their indebtedness to a common source, since Ibn Khaldūn was as ignorant of his Christian predecessor and fellow Maghribī’s theodicy as Augustine was of Muqaddamāt that did not see the light till more than nine hundred years after the Christian North African Father’s death.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
“A lily of a day” [footnote: Ben Jonson] may be perfect without being permanent, but “Civilization” was credited by its Western exponents [Gibbon is given as an example] with both these attributes of divinity: it was deemed to have come to stay for ever and to be immune against the destruction that had overtaken so many primitive and semi-civilized cultures in the past.
We have had the Jonson phrase already here.
An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956
Below, part of a discussion between Toynbee and Eric Voegelin, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, April 15 1963. The moderator may be Howard Bowen. On the previous day Voegelin had lectured on The Configuration of History in a series known as The Grinnell Seminar on Order.
70,000 marchers arrived in London on April 15 on one of the Aldermaston Marches.
Much familiar ground is covered. Toynbee is not a particularly good speaker, but his meanings are clear (he has an irritating habit of grunting while others are speaking to show that he agrees or is listening).
Voegelin refers to Toynbee in his magnum opus, the five-volume Order and History, Louisiana State University Press, 1956-87.
He had reviewed A Study of History in International Affairs (the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs published by OUP), Vol 31, 1955. He contributed a piece, Toynbee’s History as a Search for Truth, in Edward T Gargan, editor, The Intent of Toynbee’s History, A Cooperative Appraisal, with a Preface by Arnold J Toynbee, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1961.
In the last volume of the Study, Toynbee refers several times to the essay in the Gargan collection.
Voegelin observes that, in the present book, from volume vii onwards, the history of religion becomes, for me, history proper, and that I now no longer take civilizations as being the intelligible fields of study. He correctly remarks that “the plan, as it was conceived on the first existential level, was retained to cover the studies on the last existential level”, and he makes the justified criticism that “neither has the plan of the first level been completed, nor has the last level found an organisational level of its own”.
A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961
P.T.: What about Trevelyan?
A.T.: I admire him very much, for one thing because he writes in a wonderful way and is such a pleasure to read. Secondly, he has a very comprehensive all-round view: he will really give you a picture of all sides of life and activity. He has got right away from that purely political, military, old-fashioned kind of narrative history. When I was at school, the first of his series of Garibaldi books came out, and that was absolutely fascinating to me. I admire him very much.
He had a highly-developed sense of English landscapes. (So did AL Rowse at his early best.) Beginning of Grey of Fallodon, the biography of the British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916:
“Fallodon has no rare and peculiar beauty. It is merely a piece of unspoilt English countryside – wood, field and running stream. But there is a tang of the North about it; the west wind blows through it straight off the neighbouring moors, and the sea is visible from the garden through a much-loved gap in the trees. The whole region gains dignity from the great presences of the Cheviot and the Ocean. Eastward, beyond two miles of level fields across which he so often strode, lie the tufted dunes, the reefs of tide-washed rock and the bays of hard sand; on that lonely shore he would lie, by the hour, watching the oyster-catchers, turnstones, and dunlin, or the woodcock immigrants landing tired from their voyage.
“Close at hand to the south, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle surround the top of a sea-girt promontory, save where the high basalt cliffs are washed by the tide. Into that ample enclosure the cattle of Fallodon used in old days to be driven for safety in time of Scottish invasion. [Footnote: Grey told me that when, in 1882, he succeeded to the Fallodon estate, he found it still burdened with a payment of half-a-crown a year to the owners of Dunstanburgh in return for this old-world privilege. Dunstanburgh was a favourite place with him, from boyhood to the end.] Eight miles to the north, the keep of Bamburgh rises against the sky, and on the ocean’s bosom lie the Farne Islands – still the greatest of British bird sanctuaries, as when Saint Cuthbert lived there alone among the eider duck and tern.
“And on the other side of Fallodon, to the west, rise the heather-moors, crowned by Ros Castle Camp, Grey’s favourite point of view, closely overlooking Chillingham Park with its white cattle and the castle where his family had borne rule in the old border times. Beyond Chillingham, the green, rounded, Cheviot range hides Scotland and shelters this outpost strip of England between hills and sea. All North Northumberland is visible from Ros Camp, now dedicated as a memorial to Edward Grey.
“In no part of the island are the distant views more spacious, nowhere else are the glories of cIoudland more constantly unveiled. The sense of freedom and vastness, thus purveyed to the eye, is enhanced to the spirit by the tonic air, to a greater degree than in flatter lands or mountain-girdled dales. Stone farms and cottages, solidly and seemlily built, are scattered over the open country, which is protected from the Northumbrian wind by many plantations and strips of beech, ash, and other trees. The denes, hollows and streambeds hold wild vegetation that luxuriates wherever there is shelter. Outcrops of rock form lines of tall, fantastic cliffs, facing inland, and clad in bracken and wild growth. Such is the land that moulded the character of Grey, consciously ere long; unconsciously during his boyhood of rod and gun.”
England in the Age of Wycliffe 1899
England under the Stuarts 1904
The Life of John Bright 1913
Lord Grey of the Reform Bill 1920
British History in the Nineteenth Century 1922
History of England 1926
England under Queen Anne:
Ramillies and the Union with Scotland 1932
The Peace and the Protestant Succession 1934
Sir George Otto Trevelyan: A Memoir 1932
Grey of Fallodon 1937
The English Revolution, 1688-1698 1938
Trinity College: An Historical Sketch 1943
A Shortened History of England 1942
English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries, Chaucer to Queen Victoria US 1942, UK 1944; illustrated edition in four volumes 1949-52
Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic 1907
Garibaldi and the Thousand 1909
Garibaldi and the Making of Italy 1911
Scenes from Italy’s War 1919
Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848 1923
The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith 1906
Clio: A Muse and Other Essays 1913
The Recreations of an Historian 1919
An Autobiography and Other Essays 1949
A Layman’s Love of Letters (Clark Lectures delivered at Cambridge October-November 1953) 1954
With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963
P.T.: [...] Ranke, or not particularly?
A.T.: I am not enthusiastic about him [...]; and when he says that all he is trying to do is to state exactly what happened, I get rather impatient. He is absolutely innocent of the theory of knowledge, and I think he ought to have been more sophisticated philosophically. Such philosophical naïveté is really inexcusable in a historian, particularly in a German one.
But Ranke goes further than that. He wants to describe things “as they actually were”.
He was also a Welthistoriker. In 1880, he began a six-volume work on world history, which began with ancient Egypt and the Israelites. By the time of his death in Berlin in 1886 at the age of ninety, he had reached the twelfth century. His assistants later used his notes to take it up to 1453. Other works.
With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963
P.T.: When you think of English historians of the past, do you have any special affections?
A.T.: I do, I have a great affection for Gibbon, though I think that, in a way, he is naïve and limited. Christianity set his teeth on edge, and he thought that religious people were all either simpletons or cheats. I also have an affection for Gibbon’s successor Bury. I knew him personally. He was kind to me when I was young and when he was famous. Like Gibbon, he was a rationalist who spent his life studying an age of faith, and his rationalism, too, was a hindrance to his understanding of the people he was concerned with. In a supreme military crisis, the Emperor Heraclius is said to have spent a winter in prayer before starting on a daring campaign that was going to be decisive one way or the other. Bury the rationalist said: “Of course, that is humbug. It is obvious that Heraclius spent that winter, not in prayer, but in working out strategic plans.” Yet, if one is in the least sensitive to the atmosphere of the Christian World in the seventh century, it is obvious that the contemporary chronicler is telling the truth. Prayer, not Kriegspiel, was Heraclius’s winter occupation.
With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963
Tetralogy, or trilogy with sequel:
The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (UK title) 1994
Editor, with Terence Ranger, and contributor, The Invention of Tradition 1983
A final book, Fractured Spring, sent to the publisher a few months ago, will appear in 2013.
Schama meets Hobsbawm (conversation last year, post here).
Interview with Silvia Lemus, wife of Carlos Fuentes, perhaps for Mexican television and presumably from circa 1994:
Evgeny Morozov’s enjoyable demolition of Parag Khanna reminds us how good the Russian education system (and here) is or was. Morozov was born in Soligorsk in Belarus and, judging by his accent, spent much of his life there. He’s in his late twenties.
“The new pamphlet [Hybrid Reality] – it would be too strong, and not only quantitatively, to call it a book – by Parag and Ayesha Khanna, the techno-babbling power couple, gallops through so many esoteric themes and irrelevant factoids (did you know that ‘fifty-eight percent of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their mobile phone’?) that one might forgive the authors for never properly attending to their grandest, most persuasive, and almost certainly inadvertent argument. Only the rare reader would finish this piece of digito-futuristic nonsense unconvinced that technology is – to borrow a term of art from the philosopher Harry Frankfurt – bullshit. No, not technology itself; just much of today’s discourse about technology, of which this little e-book is a succinct and mind-numbing example. At least TED Books – the publishing outlet of the hot and overheated TED Conference, which brought this hidden gem to the wider public – did not kill any trees in the publishing process.”
I don’t know how much of his life Khanna has spent in India. He’s 35. He was born in Kanpur in UP. His career has been built in the US and Europe. He has just moved to Singapore.
There is probably something wrong with a person who mentions Arnold Toynbee twenty-eight times in a not very long book on modern geopolitics. That is what Khanna did in The Second World (2008). I put it down, patronisingly, to youth (though he was 31) and reviewed the book kindly even though everything he said about Toynbee was wrong. But it was not as if The Second World did not have a powerful underlying idea. It was fast, furious and extremely superficial, but in time, I thought, Khanna would discipline himself.
I’d said that Toynbee had “an unusual appeal to the partly-educated outside the West”. I could have phrased that as “the, in western terms, partly-educated”.
There are two things here: the appeal to the non-westerner and the appeal to the half-educated autodidact who is impressed by the scale of Toynbee’s writing.
It would be patronising to put Khanna into the first category, but he may belong in the second despite his academic qualifications. I am not saying either that Toynbee was of the stature of a Paulo Coelho, but that “half-educated” people are, for the most part, the ones still praising him, because his reputation among so-called “educated” ones was destroyed by Trevor-Roper and others.
There’s no point summarising Morozov. He reviews three TED publications, but mainly the first:
“Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization
By Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna
(TED Books, $2.99)
The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It
By Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan
(TED Books, $2.99)
Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act
By Ron Gutman
(TED Books, $2.99)”
Hybrid Reality is by Parag and his wife Ayesha. The couple are modelling themselves on Heidi and Alvin Toffler. Toffler-worship has replaced Toynbee-worship and is more bankable.
What Morozov does not find ludicrous in Khanna’s opus 3 he finds sinister, viz (in short) worship of authoritarian Singapore-style technocracy. There is a connection between Khanna politics and what a Pole of the same age (apparently as well-educated as Morozov), Piotr Czerski, writes in his manifesto We the Web Kids, to which I have referred.
The idea of citizenship, and the messy, inefficient, imprecise politics that goes with it, is breaking down. Instead, membership in society is regarded as something like an account. The account-holders play by the rules, click, expect results. Czerski does not identify himself with oppressive regimes, but there is a traceable line between the e-government Khanna would like to see and the citizen as atomised account-holder. Czerski:
“We do not feel a religious respect for ‘institutions of democracy’ in their current form, we do not believe in their axiomatic role, as do those who see ‘institutions of democracy’ as a monument for and by themselves. We do not need monuments. We need a system that will live up to our expectations, a system that is transparent and proficient. And we have learned that change is possible: that every uncomfortable system can be replaced and is replaced by a new one, one that is more efficient, better suited to our needs, giving more opportunities.
“What we value the most is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of access to information and to culture. We feel that it is thanks to freedom that the Web is what it is, and that it is our duty to protect that freedom. We owe that to next generations, just as much as we owe to protect the environment.
“Perhaps we have not yet given it a name, perhaps we are not yet fully aware of it, but I guess what we want is real, genuine democracy. Democracy that, perhaps, is more than is dreamt of in your journalism.”
So Morozov says that the Khannas have contempt for democracy, because they “profess their deep and inherently anti-democratic admiration for technocracy”. Czerski is asking for true democracy, as if this might for the first time, in a Pax Technologica (Khanna’s Toynbeeish phrase), be possible.
Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, Faber and Faber, 1967
The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, The Journal of Roman Studies 61, 1971
The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750, Thames and Hudson, 1971
The Making of Late Antiquity, Carl Newell Jackson lectures, Harvard University, April 1976, Harvard University Press, 1978
The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity, Haskell Lectures, University of Chicago, April 1978, University of Chicago Press, 1981
Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity, essays, Faber and Faber, 1982
Late Antiquity in Paul Veyne, editor, A History of Private Life: 1. From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, Harvard University Press, 1987
The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, Columbia University Press, 1988
Power and Persuasion: Towards a Christian Empire, Curti Lectures for 1988, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1992
Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of the Roman World, Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Cambridge University, November 1993, Cambridge University Press, 1995
The Rise of Western Christendom, AD 200-1000, Blackwell, 1996
Chapters 21 and 22 in The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XIII, The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425, Cambridge University Press, 1998
Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, Menahem Stern Jerusalem lectures, Jerusalem, May 2000, Brandeis University Press, 2001
A Life of Learning, Charles Homer Haskins Lecture delivered at ACLS Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 2003, American Council of Learned Societies Occasional Paper no 55, 2003
First editions. Some have been revised. Why nothing recent? Wikipedia: “His current research focuses on wealth and poverty in late antiquity, especially in Christian writers.”
If I had to name the greatest living historian, I’d name Brown. Possibly I am missing a better candidate. He writes about the religious transformation of Greco-Roman society. The fourth, fifth and sixth centuries are the heart of his interests, but his work isn’t just patristics. It leads us into not the beleaguered afterlife or dusty aftermath of classical civilisation, but a luminous, spacious world explored for its own sake, and full of sensual realities. His books can appeal to anyone, learned or not, but they won’t appeal to the masses. He won’t write a bestseller. Wikipedia, edited:
“Brown, who reads at least fifteen languages, established himself at the age of 32 with his biography of Augustine of Hippo. Currently, Brown is arguably [why arguably?] the most prominent historian of late antiquity. Brown has been instrumental in popularizing late antiquity, the figure of the ‘holy man’ and the study of the cult of the saints.
“In his book The World of Late Antiquity (1971), he put forward a new interpretation of the period between the third and eighth centuries CE. The traditional interpretation of this period was centered around the idea of decadence from a ‘golden age’, classical civilization, after the famous work of Edward Gibbon The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1779). On the contrary, Brown proposed to look at this period in positive terms, arguing that Late Antiquity was a period of immense cultural innovation.
“Brown was influenced in his early works by the French Annales School, and specifically the figure of Fernand Braudel. Following this school, Brown analyzed culture and religion as social phenomena and as part of a wider context of historical change and transformation. The Annales influence in Brown’s work can also be seen in his reliance on anthropology and sociology as interpretative tools for historical analysis. Specifically, Brown received the influence of contemporary Anglo-American anthropology.
“His research has been devoted chiefly to religious transformation in the late Roman world. His most celebrated early contribution on this subject concerned the figure of the ‘holy man’. According to Brown, the charismatic, Christian ascetics (holy men) were particularly prominent in the late Roman empire and the early Byzantine world as mediators between local communities and the divine. This relationship expressed the importance of patronage in the Roman social system, which was taken over by the Christian ascetics. But more importantly, Brown argues, the rise of the holy man was the result of a deeper religious change that affected not only Christianity but also other religions of the late antique period – namely the needs for a more personal access to the divine. [The word access begs some questions.]
“His views slightly shifted in the eighties. In articles and new editions Brown said that his earlier work, which had deconstructed many of the religious aspects of his field of study, needed to be reassessed. His later work shows a deeper appreciation for the specifically Christian layers of his subjects of study. His book The Body and Society (1988) offered an innovative approach to the study of early Christian practices, showing the influence of Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault’s work on the history of sexuality.”
Brown was born into a Scots-Irish Protestant family in Dublin.
1953-56: Modern History at New College
Then Merton and All Souls
1975-78: Professor of Modern History, Royal Holloway College, University of London
1978-86: Professor of Classics and History, University of California, Berkeley
From 1986: Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Princeton University (now Rollins Professor Emeritus)
There was a historian called Sir Samuel Dill (1844-1924) who took the fifth century seriously, but he dealt mainly with the western empire, ie Gaul and the world of Sidonius. His book was Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, Macmillan, 1898. I enjoyed it and have it. (He went backwards in another book in 1904, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, and forwards again in a posthumous book published in 1924, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age.) Is he viewed as a groundbreaker now? He doesn’t have a Wikipedia article. Gooch writes in History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century, Longmans, 1913 (1920 edition): “Professor Dill’s volumes on Roman Society have enriched the conception of history.” I think they did. Dill dealt with “society” in the way later historians would. Dictionary of Ulster Biography: “These books are less histories of a period than studies of the life of societies in dissolution or in spiritual crisis or decay, and reveal his moral and religious sympathies.” What does Peter Brown think about Samuel Dill? Dill was also an Irish Protestant and sometime Oxford man.
The historian who began to take Byzantium seriously in England was JB Bury (1861-1927) – whose only real pupil, Steven Runciman, died in 2000. Toynbee owed a debt to Bury. He would have had no excuse not to read Brown’s first two books, and he had rejected Gibbon’s shallow view of Christianity. But when you turn to him from Brown, you are reminded what a generalist he was much of the time, and needed to be. He was a specialist on aspects of the Greco-Roman world, but his most specialised writing is technical, its style lugubrious and pedantic. He would not have been capable, at this close range, of the supple and subtle narrations of Brown.
Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his Sixty Years a Queen, “The Story of Her Majesty’s Reign, Illustrated Chiefly from the Royal Collections”, [footnote: London 1897, arranged and printed by Eyre & Spottiswoode, published by Harmsworth Bros.] revealed to me, in his panorama, the achievements of Victorian England.
One of the Acknowledgments in the tenth volume of the Study which were so comprehensively ridiculed by Trevor-Roper.
Toynbee had referred to the same book in the preceding volume.
“History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London  [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century.
“To me it is a matter of indifference whether he read some unimportant book in the library of the Athenæum Club or in No. 45 Pembroke Square, in the summer of 1907 or in September 1952.” Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957.
But he misses the point of those Acknowledgments. There is a larger humility and delight behind the apparent self-centredness. And Toynbee is a romantic. Moreover, if you have a critical mind, it doesn’t matter what you read, since all history is two histories anyway: the subject purportedly being handled and the viewpoint of the historian. The meaning is in the synthesis, as you, a further element, perceive it.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
On the Second World War and other matters. Antony Beevor and Juliet Gardiner too, with Andrew Marr. BBC, Radio 4, Start the Week, June 11. Ferguson is, as always, entertaining.
At what temperature do Kindles catch fire? Ray Bradbury will have hoped a low one.
Last year, Robert Greaves noticed references to Toynbee in two stories by Arthur C Clarke. I then discovered that Toynbee had probably or certainly, depending on the case, influenced Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Charles Harness and Toynbee’s near-contemporary at Balliol, Olaf Stapledon.
Any influence on Heinlein must be in his Future History series.
Article on the idea of future history. It lists some writers. They have to be writing actual future history, ie fiction or virtual fiction: so no Alvin Toffler. At least two more names in this list should be mentioned. H Beam Piper was directly influenced by Toynbee. See John F Carr, H. Beam Piper, A Biography, Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, 2008. And W Warren Wagar wrote an article on Toynbee as a Prophet of World Civilization in CT McIntire and Marvin Perry, editors, Toynbee: Reappraisals, University of Toronto Press, 1989.
The outlook prevalent among people of the middle class in Great Britain at the earliest date in the last decade of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era at which the writer had begun to be aware of the psychological atmosphere of his social milieu was something that was best conveyed in caricature. In this milieu in the eighteen-nineties the feeling was:
“History is now at an end; this history is therefore final”;
[footnote: Sellar, W.C., and Yeatman, R. J.: 1066 and All That (London 1930, Methuen), p. viii.] and at this date this Weltanschauung was shared with an English middle class by the children of the German and the Northern American victors in the latest bout of Modern Western wars (gerebantur circa A.D. 1848-71). The beneficiaries from this aftermath of the General War of A.D. 1792-1815 had not, by then, begun to suspect, any more than their English “opposite numbers” had, that the Modern Age of Western history had been wound up only to inaugurate a post-Modern Age pregnant with imminent experiences that were to be at least as tragic as any tragedies yet on record. At the close of the nineteenth century even a German middle class, that was then still permitting itself to indulge in criminally irresponsible day-dreams of more frisch fröhlich six-weeks’ wars, was of the same mind as its North American and English “opposite numbers” in its workaday sober senses. In these three provinces of a post-Modern Western World an unprecedentedly prosperous and comfortable Western middle class was taking it as a matter of course that the end of one age of one civilization’s history was the end of History itself at least so far as they and their kind were concerned. They were imagining that, for their benefit, a sane, safe, satisfactory Modern Life had miraculously come to stay as a timeless present. “History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London  [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century. The assumption that the final product of those sixty years A.D. 1837-97 had come to stay was patently contrary to reason, considering that the pictures with which the text of Sixty Years a Queen was copiously illustrated presented a fascinatingly fast-moving pageant of change in every department of life, from Technology to Dress, in which change could clothe itself in visual form. In A.D. 1952 it was manifest in retrospect, even to the dullest eye, that this visual evidence had portended, not a perpetuation of the fleeting circumstances of late-nineteenth-century English middle-class life, but a revolutionary transformation of the ephemeral Victorian scene along the grim lines actually followed by the course of History within the next half-century. An oracular foreboding of the future was, indeed, uttered at the time by the Subconscious Psyche through an incongruous poetic medium. Yet Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional made little impression on the contemporaries of a Late Victorian poet who had found himself writing these ominous lines at an imperious Muse’s dictation. In the United Kingdom, as in Germany and in the Northern United States, the complacency of a post-Modern Western bourgeoisie remained unshaken till the outbreak of the first post-Modern general war in A.D. 1914.
English middle-class Conservatives for whom the Millennium had already arrived, and English middle-class Liberals for whom it lay only just round the corner, were, of course, aware that the English working class’s share in the middle class’s economic prosperity was shockingly small, and that British subjects in most of the colonies and dependencies of the United Kingdom were not enjoying a self-government that was the privilege of their fellow subjects in the United Kingdom itself and in a few other dominions of the British Crown; but these political and economic inequalities were discounted by Liberals as being something remediable and by Conservatives as being something inevitable. Citizens of the United States at the North were similarly aware, for their part, that their own economic prosperity was not shared by their fellow-citizens at the South, and that the fathers of these Southern contemporaries of theirs had seceded from the Union and had been brought back into it only by the force majeure of the North’s crushing victory over the South in a terrible civil war. Citizens of the German Reich were aware that the inhabitants of a “Reichsland” annexed from France after her crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of A.D. 1870-1 were still French at heart and that the rest of a French nation which had not yet ceased to be a Great Power was still unreconciled to the amputation of the ceded departments. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries France was still entertaining thoughts of a revanche, and the subject population in Alsace-Lorraine was still dreaming the same dream of an eventual liberation as other subject populations in Slesvik, Poland, Macedonia, and Ireland. These dissatisfied contemporaries of a sated German, British, and North American bourgeoisie were nursing national grievances and national aspirations which did not permit them to acquiesce in a comfortable belief that “History” was “at an end”; indeed they could not have continued, as they did continue, to keep alight the flickering flame of a forlorn hope if they had succumbed to a Weltanschauung which, for them, would have spelled, not security, but despair. Yet their unwavering confidence that a, to them, intolerable established régime must be borne away, sooner or later, by Time’s “ever rolling stream” made little impression on the torpid imagination of “the Ascendancy”. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”; [footnote: Isa. liii. 7.] and, though “the Ascendancy” was under a delusion in mistaking for an intimation of consent a silence that was inspired by the watchword “N’en parlons jamais, y pensons toujours”, [footnote: The watchword suggested for the guidance of members of the rising generation in France, on the morrow of her loss of Alsace-Lorraine in A.D. 1871, by a French statesman of an older generation (? Paul Déroulède).] [unusual question mark ... it seems to have been Gambetta who said this] there was in A.D. 1897 no living man or woman, even among the most sanguine-minded prophets of a nationalist or a socialist revolution, who dreamed that a demand for national self-determination was going to break up the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, and Romanov empires and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland within the next twenty-five years, and going to spread, within another twenty-five years, from a few sore spots in Western Europe and in Orthodox Christendom to the uttermost parts of the Old World, or that a demand for social democracy was going to spread from the urban working class in a few precociously industrialized provinces of the Western World to the peasantry of Mexico and China. Gandhi (natus A.D. 1869) and Lenin (natus A.D. 1870) were then still unknown names; and the word “Communism” then commemorated a lurid event in the past that had been the last eruption of History’s now extinct volcano. This ominous outbreak of savagery in a Parisian underworld in A.D. 1871 was written off by optimistic post-Modern Western minds as an abnormal atavistic reaction to the shock of a startling military disaster, and there was no discernible fear of the recrudescence of a conflagration that had been smothered now for longer than a quarter of a century under a bourgeois Third Republic’s wet blanket. In 1897 a Western bourgeois gentilhomme’s sleep was not being seriously disturbed by prophetic nightmares.
Victorian pennies were current until 1971, the year Britain completed its withdrawal from most of its bases east of Suez
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
H. A. L. Fisher has made fun of me for taking the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang seriously. “In the great operatic performance of humanity he detects,” Fisher says of me, “the occurrence of this Leitmotiv of Yin and Yang. Other ears will be less sensitive to the regularity of the Chinese beat” (The Nineteenth Century and After, December, 1934, p. 672). On this I can only comment: “They have ears, but they hear not” (Psalm cxxxv.17).
Fisher made an oblique reference to Toynbee in the Preface to his History of Europe (1935).
“One intellectual excitement has [...] been denied to me. Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for this historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen.”
(The Nineteenth Century was a monthly literary magazine founded in 1877 by James Knowles, architect of Albert Mansions in Victoria Street. Many early contributors were members of the Metaphysical Society (1869-80). In 1901, the title was changed to The Nineteenth Century and After. It was published with that name until 1951 (or 1972?). The Nineteenth Century and After was also the title of a poem by Yeats in The Winding Stair (1933).)
Colour printing on title pages is rare, and always pleasant to find. It was commoner in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when red was often used. The Taoist Yin-Yang symbol appears in blue and red, without dots, on the title page of A Journey to China, or Things Which Are Seen, Constable, 1931. On the South Korean flag, the red is on top of the blue, with no dots. Toynbee’s book has the red on the left and the blue on the right.
The Taegeuk symbol, without dots, appears in Korean carvings of the seventh century (or even earlier). As far as I know, it has never been used in Japan.
In China, the Taijitu symbol appears (according to Wikipedia) later: a version of it in the eleventh century (Northern Song) and something closer to the modern symbol in the sixteenth (Ming). When were the dots introduced in China?
The design has Celtic, Etruscan and Roman precedents which precede the earliest Korean examples, though no eastern origin for them has been shown. The classical pattern, with dots, appears for the first time anywhere in the Notitia Dignitatum, among shield patterns of the Western Roman army c AD 430. The document has survived in manuscript copies. There is a certain oriental appeal in these patterns at a distance.
The Yin and Yang duality is introduced in the first volume of A Study of History (pp 196-204).
They are always mentioned in this order – Yin, the static condition, and Yang, the dynamic activity – and never the other way round (Forke, A.: Die Gedankenwelt des chinesischen Kulturkreises (Munich and Berlin 1927, Oldenbourg), p. 110).
A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961 (footnote)
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (footnote)
Not a Jermyn Street shirt shop, but authors of two books I would like to read.
Tom Holland’s In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World, Little Brown, 2012 will get the same mass readership as his others: Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium. The Romano-Persian Endgame and the Birth of Islam could be an alternative subtitle.
Michael Scott, Telegraph: “‘Is it possible,’ [Holland] asks, ‘that Islam, far from originating outside the mainstream of ancient civilisation, was in truth a religion in the grand tradition of Judaism and Christianity – one bred of the very marrow of late antiquity?’” Well, yes. Is that controversial?
Contents of Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Allen Lane, 2011:
Tolosa: Sojourn of the Visigoths (AD 418-507)
Alt Clud: Kingdom of the Rock (Fifth to Twelfth Centuries)
Burgundia: Five, Six or Seven Kingdoms (c. 411-1795)
Aragon: A Mediterranean Empire (1137-1714)
Litva: A Grand Duchy with Kings (1253-1795)
Byzantion: The Star-lit Golden Bough (330-1453)
Borussia: Watery Land of the Prusai (1230-1945)
Sabaudia: The House that Humbert Built (1033-1946)
Galicia: Kingdom of the Naked and Starving (1773-1918)
Etruria: French Snake in the Tuscan Grass (1801-1814)
Rosenau: The Loved and Unwanted Legacy (1826-1918)
Tsernagora: Kingdom of the Black Mountain (1910-1918)
Rusyn: The Republic of One Day (15 March 1939)
Éire: The Unconscionable Tempo of the Crown’s Retreat since 1916
CCCP: The Ultimate Vanishing Act (1924-1991)
Ben Wilson, Telegraph.
Lueger was Mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. Hitler paid tribute to him in Mein Kampf.
Lueger is pronounced Lu-eger, not Lüger.
Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz remains. So does the Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (memorial church) in the Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery). There is sycophancy in these chains of hyphens.
AJP Taylor in The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, Hamish Hamilton, 1948 edition:
“The ‘Austrian idea’ in its last version – an idea which in shaky form survived dynasty and Empire – was of Roman Catholic manufacture. The Christian Socialist party organised by Lueger was the first real attempt of the Church to go with the masses, more democratic – and more demagogic – than the Centre, its German counterpart. Christian Socialism appealed to the traditional clericalism of the peasant and yet freed the peasant from dependence on the landowner; more, despite the peasant’s hostility to the town, it brought the peasants into alliance with the shopkeepers and artisans who were threatened by the advance of great industry. In fact, the Christian Socialist party was the Austrian version of the Radical party in France (or even of Lloyd George radicalism in England), except that it worked with the Church instead of against it. It aimed to protect the ‘little man’ from limited companies and trade unions, from banks and multiple stores, and also from great estates and mechanised farming. It sought to divert the rising political passions into channels not dangerous to the Church: it was anti-liberal, anti-Jewish, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist. The leaders of the movement knew exactly what they were about: though they appealed to base passions, especially anti-Semitism, they supposed that they could always control the passions which they evoked. Lueger declared, ‘I decide who is a Jew,’ and firmly protected any Jew who kept clear of liberalism and Marxism. Seipel, a later leader, said of his party’s anti-Semitism: ‘That is for the gutter.’ He had no inkling that the gutter would one day murder his successor [Dollfuss]. Christian Socialism was an attempt to touch pitch and not be defiled. As the party of the ‘little man,’ it was Imperial ‘by appointment’; its supporters knew the value of the Archdukes’ custom. Traditional Austrians were at first shocked by the Christian Socialist demagogy; and, in the ’nineties Francis Joseph four times refused to confirm Lueger as Mayor of Vienna. In 1897 he was accepted; and the dynasty acknowledged that it had found a new ally.”
Mahler’s reign at the Hofoper was nearly coterminous with Lueger’s at the Rathaus: 1897-1907.
I learned at the tram stop shown in the BBC story, as it happens, of the death of Arnold Toynbee, through a copy of The Times that I bought at its kiosk on October 24 or 27 1975. “A great historian” was the obituary’s headline.
Simon Schama talks to the 94-year old Eric Hobsbawm at Hobsbawm’s house in Hampstead. At BBC iPlayer until April 21.
When I was growing up, there was much more of this kind of thing on BBC radio, because more of these educated central Europeans, exiles and children of exiles, were still living. They lent a certain flavour to postwar English life, and to the BBC itself, as staff and as subjects. Many lived in Hampstead. Hobsbawm and Alfred Brendel must be the last two still there. I lived for a time in my twenties in part of the Hampstead house of one of them, Fred Uhlman.
Since Hugh Trevor-Roper is a recurring character in this blog, I have to link to the last two, very entertaining, episodes of a reading of Robert Harris’s Selling Hitler on BBC Radio 4 Extra: episodes 7 (available till April 4) and 8 (till April 5).
The story so far:
Over the next two years, Stern secretly pays a mysterious “Dr Fischer” nearly 9 million marks for sixty volumes of “diaries” written in Hitler’s hand for the years 1932-45 and for a supplementary volume about Rudolf Hess. They had been discovered, allegedly, in the wreck of a plane which had crashed in a forest in 1945 while carrying Hitler’s personal archive.
We are in 1983. Rupert Murdoch has acquired the English-language publishing rights from Stern for $1.2 million. In November 1945 British intelligence had commissioned Trevor-Roper to investigate the circumstances of Hitler’s death. He had subsequently written The Last Days of Hitler. Now, on Saturday April 23, having barely glanced at the notebooks in the vault of a bank in Zurich, he pronounces them authentic in Murdoch’s The Times, basing his judgment on circumstantial evidence.
Before his article is published, forensic evidence is released which is at best problematic. The holocaust-denying historian David Irving states in print that the diaries are forgeries. Trevor-Roper starts to have doubts.
On the Saturday, his article open in front of him, he calls The Times to express them, hoping that the editor will prevent Murdoch’s The Sunday Times from publishing the first extracts on the following day. He does not. Publication goes ahead, and very unconvincing the diaries are.
A press conference is called for Monday April 25 in Hamburg to launch Stern’s publication of further extracts. Heidemann and Trevor-Roper sit alongside its bullish editors. Trevor-Roper, for whom this has turned into a nightmare, voices his doubts. Irving speaks from the audience. The event is a catastrophe for all on the panel.
The diaries are revealed as the work of a Stuttgart criminal, Konrad Kujau. Heidemann and Kujau go to jail. Most of the money has gone into Heidemann’s pocket, though not all is accounted for. The forger is full of moral indignation at Heidemann’s dishonesty, having received only a couple of million marks.
This “disagreeable episode” (as he called it on Desert Island Discs; listen here) did not affect the quality of Trevor-Roper’s subsequent work. Its greatest irony was that the reputation of a great historian was undermined in part by a man as disreputable as David Irving. With help, from the other side, from a man as disreputable as Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch, according to Harris, said only three things about the whole affair:
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“After all, we are in the entertainment business.”
“The circulation went up and it stayed up. We didn’t lose money or anything like that.”
Murdoch, Heidemann and Irving are still alive.
A clip from Phoenix about the affair in German, including shots of the press conference:
The Vendée, perhaps 1944.
Occupation. Maquisards. A countryside of shortages. A rite of passage.
“He had been lying there for two hours without sleeping, his eyes fixed on a corner of the room where the moon illuminated the whitewashed wall, a black frame that contained a print, the posts of his sister’s bed. He could discern his father’s snoring in the neighbouring room. He had intentionally chosen a market night, because on those days his father would drink a few glasses of white wine and be sleepy.
He got out of bed, dressed silently, his bare feet sticking to the coolness of the tiles. He knew well, by the quality of the silence, that his sister wasn’t asleep – he sensed her tense nerves. He could nearly have foretold at what moment, as he took a step, she would reveal her wakefulness.
‘Are you going there?’
It was hardly a whisper. The vibration of the syllables just reached him, and, shoes in his hands, he approached her bed, touched with his lips a forehead moist with her scent.
‘I think this is it,’ he breathed. ‘Tomorrow, you will tell them …’
How had she guessed? And he, on his side, for several days, had he not been sure that she knew? She’d never said anything. Besides, she worked all day long as a maid for the butcher and she didn’t even take meals with them. It had always been like that – they hardly spoke and she knew. Only with him. You had to believe that there was a link between them that didn’t exist between other humans.
She didn’t cry, didn’t give him any advice. He moved away, opened the door and continued to feel her open eyes turned toward him in the blackness of the room. He left by the courtyard, jumped the hedge at the bottom of the garden and crossed the wet fields behind the church. Far enough from the village, he put on his shoes and tied them.
He was very quiet. He had thought through these movements so often that he accomplished them mechanically. A thick moon swam in the sky. A layer of moisture spread across the meadows and fields.
In that way he covered two kilometres, close to the river, the point that he had decided, and there, in the hollow of a dead chestnut, he located the shotgun.
Would he be lucky? Would he have to do this again another two or three nights? His father’s gun [fusil], that he had taken fifteen days before without his knowledge [the text says déterré: would his father have buried it or is this metaphorical?], was perfectly clean, without a trace of rust. In each barrel was a cartridge of buckshot, and three more were in his pocket, within reach of his hand. But would he have time to reload? Better not to count on it.
He got to his lookout, the site he had prepared, behind the hedge. He saw the road that came up toward him from the bridge. And, on the tarmac he had taken the precaution, this very day, to make a mark in chalk. When the motorcycle arrived at this mark, not before, he had to fire.
Afterward, everything would be changed. Now, he was alone, he was nothing. He was, in the night, a boy of twenty with cold-numbed fingers. The air was so still that he could hear, at more than hundred metres, the whisper of the river where there was sometimes a slight plop. A water rat? A fish?
More than a week before, nine days, he had gone to find them, over there in the forest, a dozen kilometres away, where he knew that they hid. In the middle of the day. He had advanced, hands in pockets, throat tight. He had always expected to see the gleam of the barrel of a submachine-gun [mitraillette], but they let him get to the farm. A big guy wearing dungarees and clogs sat on the doorstep, playing with a child.
‘What do you want?’
‘To see the chief.’
‘Where are you from?’
He had named his village and told them that he worked as a cartwright, and from the back of the room some boys emerged, spread them themselves around and watched him.
‘Do you think we should wake him?’
He slept in the straw of the barn, the chief. He was a very young boy too, curly hair, blue eyes, with a blue sweater with narrow red stripes and sandals. A Parisian. A mechanic. Bristling with golden straw.
‘You are well kind, my boy. But what the hell do you want us to do with you? We have one rifle for four and a couple of clodhoppers for two …’
That phrase he repeated to himself all along his path back …
‘… one rifle for four and a couple of clodhoppers for two …’
And he had presented himself with empty hands! He was ashamed of it now, as if he had committed some faux pas with very high-class people. Was it perhaps the desire to erase that shame, even more than the need to no longer be alone, that enflamed him while he waited behind the hedge?
There had been nights when, from his bed, he had heard motorcycles passing at all hours. Autos also, but he couldn’t think of autos. He heard one of then, very far off, that turned before reaching the river. Then silence. He wanted to smoke. The gun was truly frozen. Bells, those of his village, seemed to chase after him.
Then, suddenly, finally, a buzzing which could not be mistaken. He didn’t move, didn’t shudder … had maybe a little too much saliva in his throat. It was at first very slow. It seemed that the motorcycle would never reach the river. After that, it was very fast, very simple, nearly too simple. The machine, with its weak pink gleam, touched the chalk mark and he fired. The motor whined louder, as if to explode … the motorcycle rolled on about another twenty metres, with its rider dancing wildly, landing very close to the ditch, while the motor continued to whine.
He hadn’t moved. He waited. The man moved in the wet grass. He fired his second shot.
At that precise instant, hadn’t his sister shuddered in her bed? In any case, he thought about her, without knowing why. He put the shotgun back in the hole of the dead tree, slipped onto the road. First he had to stop the motor, to extinguish the light.
Then, calmly, without panicking, without forgetting a detail, doing what he had to do. He didn’t need to think. He knew. And he was without astonishment.
First, the Jerry. He had a carbine [carabine, a kind of long firearm] on his back and a revolver [revolver] in his belt. With the meticulous care of an ant he stashed the carbine in the tree, along with the ammunition. The boots? He wanted to take them, but he had not thought of that and he preferred not to depart in any way from his programme.
Some two hundred metres away there was an abandoned well into which he slipped the cadaver. It was no longer cold out, but very warm. He just had to drag the motorcycle into the meadow and take the tires. He had thought so well about all this that he had the tools in his pockets.
The machine, in its turn, toppled into the well.
In that way he would avoid reprisals to his village. Nothing was left on the road, not a shred of glass.
But there were still kilometres to cover, with tires on his shoulders. Dawn was about to break when he reached the door of the shoemaker in a neighbouring village whom he had seen three days earlier. A window opened up. A man in a nightshirt.
‘It’s you? At this hour?’
‘I’ve brought what I promised …’
Because the other had said: ‘Boots? I can’t give you boots. But then, if you could find me two motorcycle tires, I might manage to …’
He wore his slippers in the shop.
‘Aren’t you thirsty?’
‘No … I need you to lend me an old sack to carry them in … Four pair then …’
‘Small or large?’
‘Preferably large …’
The shoemaker was thinking, of course, but he preferred, he also, not to seem to think.
‘If you go home, tell your father …’
‘I’m not going right back …’
‘Good luck, then …’
He remembered: ‘Oh, the bag, you’ll have to bring back the bag …’
One could begin to see light in the cowsheds, women in the yards with buckets of milk.
It was a little after six o’clock when he reached the farm in the woods. Or rather, at fifty metres away a voice, ‘Stop! Come this way … On the left …’
He walked without seeing anyone and a man emerged, who felt the bag.
‘What do you have in there?’
‘Boots … new … four pair …’
Sweat poured off his forehead, his legs weakened. He was in a such a hurry now, to enter this house, to drop himself onto a bench, close to the others, that he blurted out quickly, in unintelligible words, all his treasure.
‘The two tires of the Jerry … don’t worry … he’s in the well … there’s a carbine in the tree … and this …’
A beautiful black automatic [automatique, ie the revolver], gleaming, that he produced in offering to the lookout, with tears in his eyes.
This time, he had come with his hands full.”
Georges Simenon, Les mains pleines, written in the Vendée in March 1945, published in the daily La Patrie, Brussels, No 39, June 7 1945, and in book form in the story collection La rue aux trois poussins, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1963. In July 2000 I bought a reprint of part of that collection at a bookstall on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis.
This translation by Steve Trussel (the only one, and never printed) appears here, under the title Hands Full, at his Maigret website, although the story has nothing to do with Maigret. I have reproduced it with Steve’s permission and made some small changes, but the copyright remains with him.
Steve’s Maigret site is one of the richest on the web devoted to any novelist, though you have to dig a bit to get its full measure. It hides its secrets.
You couldn’t use this story to argue that Simenon was one of the great writers of the twentieth century, but that argument has been won in any case. I was saying this when his reputation in the English-speaking world was in a recession after his death in 1989. It started to return at his centenary in 2003. Now everybody is saying it.
But it is interesting as one of the few pieces of his fiction which deal with the Second World War. Two novels – out of a core list of 192 – do: Le clan des Ostendais (1947) and Le train (1961). I haven’t read the first, but The Train is not a full war novel even if it is about trainful of refugees moving south through France. One of his very finest books, La neige était sale (1948), is set in an unidentified town under occupation. He insisted that the setting was not France, but rather Austria or Czechoslovakia. The snow is a metaphor of the occupation. For other, minor references to the war in his work, go to this Trussel page.
Simenon lived in the Vendée, in the occupied zone, during the war, first at Fontenay-le-Comte, then at Saint-Mesmin-le-Vieux, and at the end at Les Sables-d’Olonne, where he wrote this story. Most of the Vendée, originally Bas-Poitou in the old province of Poitou (the provinces were abolished in 1790), on the coast of the Pays-de-la-Loire, had been the seat of a royalist uprising between 1793 and ’96, and sporadically up to 1815. Balzac published Les Chouans, which is partly about guerrilla fighting during this revolt (though the Chouans operated in Normandy, Maine and Brittany) in 1829, Trollope La Vendée in 1850, Hugo Quatrevingt-treize (Ninety-Three) in 1874. Marx used the word Vendée to refer to counter-revolutionary activities in various countries. Thus to “organise a Vendée”.
Les Sables-d’Olonne, however, supported the Republic. The departing German army destroyed the port during the night of August 27 1944.
The very young man, or adolescent on the edge of manhood, who transgresses, but whose heart is in the right place, is a recurring character in Simenon’s work. He exists in Balzac too. One of the people charged with investigating Simenon for collaboration in early 1945 was Jean Huguet, who is described by Simenon’s biographer Pierre Assouline as “a nineteen-year-old from Sables-d’Olonne, [and what] you might call a romantic of the Resistance”, though he was “more keen on literature than on political policing”.
Simenon’s record had not been spotless. He had not been an active collaborator, but perhaps an opportunist. He escaped further questioning by living in the US and Canada from ’45 to ’55. One wonders whether he wrote this story almost in self-defence, sensing what might be coming. Could its hero have been modelled on Huguet?
Rural resistance fighters during the war were called maquisards. Maquis is a type of high ground in Corsica covered in vegetation, like North American chapparal, where privateers used to hide. The picture at the top, from here, has the caption Un maquisard et sa sten. A sten gun is a submachine gun, not the simple shotgun which the hero in the story seems to have been carrying.
In July 1940 Churchill and Hugh Dalton formed the Special Operations Executive – “Churchill’s Secret Army” – a clandestine organisation whose purpose was to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers. It worked through espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance behind enemy lines. It helped local resistance movements in all the occupied territories, not only France.
The maquis bands relied on airdrops of weapons from the SOE. They were helped by agents who were parachuted in with wireless sets. They also used captured German weapons, especially the MP40 (a French resistance fighter, according to Wikipedia, said “they are as common as hookers on the streets of Paris, and they get about as much action”). They helped downed Allied airmen, Jews, and others to escape from the Vichy and German authorities. They relied on a degree of sympathy or cooperation from the local populace. The maquisards identified themselves to each other by wearing a Basque beret. It was common enough not to arouse suspicion, distinctive enough to be effective.
In March 1944, the German Army began a terror campaign throughout France. It included reprisals against civilians living in areas where the Resistance was active. Maquisards took their revenge against collaborators in the épuration sauvage when the war was over.
I met (as a family friend) Francis Basin (nom-de-guerre Olive, 1903-75), who worked in Section F of the SOE. He was based in London and conducted operations in France. He lost both his legs in a traffic accident after the war. He died in Paris. More on him.
John F Guilmartin, review of David Abulafia, The Great Sea, A Human History of the Mediterranean, OUP, 2011, in The American Interest, March/April 2012. How it differs from Braudel.
The bay of Carthage
Braudel’s main works:
La Méditerranée et le monde Méditerranéen a l’époque de Philippe II, 3 volumes, 1949 (The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II; there is also a one-volume abridgement)
Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, 3 volumes, 1967, 1979, 1979 (Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century)
L’identité de la France, 2 volumes, 1986 (unfinished) (The Identity of France)
Grammaire des civilisations, 1987 (a world history, posthumous) (A History of Civilizations)
Les mémoires de la Méditerranée, 1998 (posthumous) (The Mediterranean in the Ancient World)
“[W]hen I think of the individual, I am always inclined to see him imprisoned within a destiny in which he himself has little hand, fixed in a landscape in which the infinite perspectives of the long term stretch into the distance both behind him and before.” (The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World)
Part 1 (of 4) of The Story of British Pathé (60 minutes, BBC Four) is on BBC iPlayer until tomorrow. With Andrew Marr and others.
Pathé Frères was established in Paris (Vincennes) in 1896. It quickly went public. It made films and phonograph records and built cinemas. Charles Pathé acquired the Lumière brothers’ patents in 1902. He set up in London in the same year and was soon in other places.
britishpathe.com (not a great site) has 90,000 films, mainly newsreels, from 1896 to 1976 for a fee or – with very low resolution – for free. There are a few higher-definition reels on its YouTube channel.
Pathé has been divided up and restructured many times, but still exists. British Pathé did more than newsreels. I’m not sure what it does now other than license newsreels or whether it is connected with the rest of the company.
Movietone (US) produced newsreels in the UK from 1929 to 1979.
Newsreel category at Wikipedia
Sligger Urquhart and Sikh, Balliol, c 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission
Mr Samgrass in Brideshead Revisited, Sillery in A Dance to the Music of Time and Irwin in The History Boys are cited by Jacob Heilbrunn as “overweening” fictional historians in a review of Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010, in the The National Interest, September-October.
The model for Samgrass (All Souls) is usually said to be Maurice Bowra (Wadham), but he must have had elements of FF (“Sligger”) Urquhart, the snobbish homosexual Dean of Balliol from 1918 to 1934, in him. Some have suggested Isaiah Berlin (All Souls), who was perhaps more of a social snob than Bowra. It is impossible for people now to know what Bowra’s social reputation was based on. The best that can be said of his reported jokes is that one had to be there. But the impression he made on generations of undergraduates and others was deep.
Anthony Powell (Balliol) was a pupil of Urquhart, which Waugh (Hertford) was not. He also knew Bowra, I think, better than Waugh did. He placed Sillery in a setting based on Urquhart’s salon (is a college named?), but denied drawing on him otherwise. He also denied modelling him on Bowra. He seems, rather, to have used Sir Ernest Barker, who wasn’t an Oxford man.
The model for Alan Bennett’s Irwin (teaches at a fictional school in Sheffield, but an Oxford man) seems to have been Niall Ferguson (Jesus and elsewhere).
CRMF Cruttwell, dean of Hertford, gained a kind of immortality by having various dubious and very unacademic characters in several of Waugh’s pre-war novels named after him. Sniggs and Postlethwaite in Decline and Fall are too sketchy to be based on anyone.
Sligger had been a model for Walter Pater’s “imaginary portrait” Emerald Uthwart, published in The New Review in 1892. Waugh even acted him in a silent film, The Scarlet Woman, that he made as an undergraduate, and he draws a portrait of him in his biography of Ronald Knox. Horace Slughorn in the Harry Potter books may be distantly related to him. For Toynbee, Urquhart was the archetypal college-bound historian. The prospect of his own career taking such a path horrified him.
I mentioned Urquhart in a post called Balliol, Trinity Term 1914, one of the better posts here. There are now over 2,000 photos by or of him in the Balliol archive at Flickr (Urquhart albums 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9, more than when I did the earlier post), some taken in Oxford, some abroad, often at the chalet which his father had built in the valley of Chamonix, to which Sligger brought many visitors. It became known as the Chalet des Anglais. There are a few at Balliol College Archives. “Every available inch of mantelpiece and walls [in Urquhart’s rooms] was covered with photographs of previous generations of undergraduates”: Humphrey Carpenter, The Brideshead Generation.
If the overweening Trevor-Roper has not yet been the model for a fictional character, then one day he will be. Alan Bennett improbably acted him in the 1991 ITV half-comic drama-documentary about the Hitler diaries fiasco, Selling Hitler.
Toynbee was not a social climber or snob, but married into the family which owned Castle Howard. As an undergraduate at Oxford, he came to know the Regius Professor of Greek (the chair was at Christ Church), Gilbert Murray, who was married to Mary Howard (1865-1956), daughter of the Earl of Carlisle. In March 1910 he was invited to visit the family seat (Vanbrugh). Lady Mary’s parents were living, but the 9th Earl died in 1911, leaving the Dowager Countess (née Stanley) the head of the family. In September 1913 Toynbee married the Murrays’ daughter Rosalind.
Rosalind’s alcoholic, left-leaning brother Basil is said to have been the model for Waugh’s anti-hero Basil Seal in Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags. And Nancy Mitford writes to Evelyn Waugh on September 12 1964: “Ph Toynbee [Toynbee’s son] [...] seems to be a re-incarnation of old Baz” (Charlotte Mosley, editor, The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, Hodder and Stoughton, 1996).
Trevor-Roper’s snobberies were rampant, but they did not prevent him, as they should have, from mocking Toynbee thus (The Prophet, review of McNeill’s biography of Toynbee, New York Review of Books, October 12 1989):
“There was a good chance, given the countess’s power and whims, that this favorite granddaughter might ultimately inherit Castle Howard and the great estate which went with it. Then the financial circumstances of the Toynbees would change. They would live in aristocratic grandeur, entertaining the great and writing immortal works.”
Toynbee and Rosalind joined the Labour Party in 1918 (they abandoned it around 1922; Toynbee would vote Liberal thereafter). The Khaki election and the eclipse of the Liberal Party were “an intolerable and unexpected turn of the screw” for the Countess. “Those who had abandoned the Liberal cause and joined with Labour counted as nothing less than traitors in her eyes; and, of course, Toynbee and Rosalind were among the guilty.” Quotations from McNeill.
The Countess would write to him on May 2 1919 and rail against “the great catastrophe of the election”. “And after all what have you to do with Castle Howard? This beautiful place so lovable for those who accept it with a simple affection and clear conscience – but such a jarring false note, such a mockery for those who have joined the ranks of the people who have declared war on such as we, who dwell in great rooms filled with private galleries of books and pictures. Is it not anathema to your comrades? Then why come here?”
May 6: “I understand that you and Rosalind enrolled yourselves in the Labour Party last winter: that party is fighting hard the Liberals (sic) and will smash us if they can. … I have been an intense passionate lover of my Liberal creed and party all my life long. … If I were to have as my guests … those who belong to a party that seeks to compass our destruction, there could be no vivid, helpful, comforting talk for me. We should have to keep off political subjects and that would make intercourse very unreal and dry and very different from our old breezy, happy times.”
One is reminded of Forster. Howards End, no less. Who would inherit England? If Castle Howard could be called England.
The Toynbees never did inherit Castle Howard. The teetotal Dowager, who died in 1921, left it to her teetotal daughter Mary, not to her sons or to the grandson, the 11th Earl (1895-1963), who had inherited the earldom in 1912; but the Murrays declined the inheritance. It passed to the Dowager’s only surviving son, Geoffrey Howard (1877-1935), in whose family it has remained. Toynbee and his wife got a smaller house next door, Ganthorpe Hall, and do not appear to have resented the Murrays for their decision.
Castle Howard was made into Brideshead in both the good eleven-hour 1980 ITV adaptation and bad 2008 film adaptation of Waugh’s novel. The description of Brideshead doesn’t match Castle Howard exactly (there is a dome at Castle Howard, but no columns), but it is close enough.
The film is bad because, like many others, it substitutes vague atmospherics for drama and acting. Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain is a kind of short-cut and conveys nothing of the class or period. Matthew Goode is a vacuous Charles Ryder. But the main error is that Julian Jarrold has decided that the story is about “guilt”. “Catholic guilt.” Sebastian’s problem may be “guilt”, but “guilt” is not part of Christian moral thinking and was not in Waugh’s mind. Waugh’s theme was: “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters”.
Perhaps it is as well that Toynbee did not live permanently in Castle Howard or his
Ambition with a great screaming A
(letter to Robert Darbishire, January 30 1910) might have got out of hand. He might have seemed even more eccentric. Kenneth Clark wondered on television in a gallery in the Vatican whether “a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit has ever been conceived or written down in an enormous room”. He added in the book: “except, perhaps, in the reading room of the British Museum”.
Toynbee to Robert Darbishire, Saturday March 5 1910:
I am going off to-day week with Gilbert Murray to Castle Howard, a fenced city of his parents-in-law, somewhere in Yorkshire. I wonder if Lady Carlysle (is it so spelt?) will be in residence? – like Lady Mary, I am told, plus temperance, raised to the tenth power. It will be very amusing and delightful.
Sebastian drives Charles to Brideshead on a “cloudless” day in June 1923. Toynbee arrived on March 12 1910 in equally sunny, but colder, weather; but
The Sun makes up for all.
Earlier in the same letter to Darbishire:
It is a great and marvellous place, early 18th century style on the vast scale, with pictures and lakes and statues and libraries and all manner of things.
Lady Carlysle is obviously a mighty force, but not, perhaps, so formidable. Would though that I was less entirely at sea about politics [footnote: Lady Carlisle was intensely interested in social causes; cf. West, Gilbert Murray: A Life, pp. 25-27.] – domestic matters, I mean, for I only read the foreign sheet of the Times, while police courts, cabinet crises, football leagues, and such “own dirty linen” I eschew. However, I shall doubtless know plenty about home politics before I go away. Do you like Canalettos? They cover all the walls in the room where we eat [Toynbee on Canaletto] – I won’t call it the dining room, for there are at least twenty like it. There are also Wattses [he describes a Watts in Experiences], and crowds of nice solid books of the eighty years ago kind.
Altogether, it is more peaceful, and less of a “fearful joy” [Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College] than I expected.
In 1913 he would spend his honeymoon there.
1980 music by Geoffrey Burgon.
Apropos the picture at the top: Balliol had Indian connections. In 1853 entry to the Indian Civil Service was opened through a competitive exam. Many applicants passed through Balliol. Toynbee’s uncle, the original Arnold, had been tutor there in charge of ICS candidates. In the early twentieth century (or before?: the first Indian(s) at Oxford had arrived in 1871) Balliol admitted a number of Indian and other Asian students, which strengthened the contrast between Balliol and its more socially conservative rival Trinity. The Boden Chair of Sanskrit (established 1831) has been attached to Balliol since 1880.
Sligger and friend, c 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission
Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous
Olaf Stapledon was older than Toynbee, but overlapped with him at Balliol (post on Balliol), where he read Modern History. A letter from Toynbee to Robert Darbishire of March 9 1913, published in the same volume as his correspondence with Columba Cary-Elwes, suggests that Toynbee was at least acquainted with him.
What follows comes from page images at Google Books, but I haven’t been able to read the rest to find out, from WHG Armytage, how close Stapledon’s examinations of future civilisations come to Toynbee’s of past and present ones. Stapledon seems to refer at one stage to an “Americanised world-state”, which fails “to discover fresh supplies of energy, which even in the Antarctic are becoming exhausted”. Armytage, who is described in various online pages as a eugenicist and published books on the history of education in England, refers to Last and First Men and A Story of the Near and Far Future as if they were separate books. I’ve corrected this.
Armytage in Yesterday’s Tomorrows: A Historical Survey of Future Societies, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968:
“‘When your writers romance of the future,’ writes one of the ‘last men’ in his Last and First Men (1930), ‘they too easily imagine a progress toward some kind of Utopia, in which beings like themselves live in unmitigated bliss among circumstances perfectly suited to a fixed human nature. I shall not describe any such paradise. Instead, I shall record huge fluctuations of joy and woe, the results of changes not only in man’s environment but in his fluid nature.’ The ‘huge fluctuations’, on Olaf Stapledon’s time-scale, cover 2,000 million years – nothing less than a history of man from his own time to the destruction of the solar system. In Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future (1930), Last Men in London (1932) and Star-Maker (1937), Stapledon carried Darwinian ideas far further than Wells. His method of dealing with the future was analogous to what Arnold Toynbee was currently doing for the past – envisaging the rise and fall of many civilisations – races and species even. Like Toynbee, Stapledon is concerned with unsuccessful attempts; like Marx, he was also concerned to show the dialectical reaction of one civilisation on another. Like Bernal he envisaged migrations from the earth to other planets, in Stapledon’s case first to Venus, then to Neptune, but having gone through mutations of the Bernal kind, his final eighteenth race, appearing millions of years from now, being recognisably human again.”
A review on Amazon of the Somervell abridgement of Toynbee says: “I first became acquainted with the name of Arnold Toynbee through reading the science fiction of Arthur C. Clarke. Later, I saw references to him in Heinlein and Poul Anderson, and decided to see what it was all about.”
I can’t find more about a Heinlein connection, but a comment at a science fiction site says: “A fair chunk of Anderson’s historical analysis is straight Toynbee.”
Charles Harness’s The Paradox Men (1953, but published first in Startling Stories, May 1949, as Flight into Yesterday) has a time-travelling craft called the Toynbee Twenty-Two, numbered for the civilisation that would soon replace our own (Toynbee had identified twenty-one civilisations up to the present). Independent obituary of Harness: “Here, what initially seems to be a tale dominated by space-opera extravagances [...] gradually turns into a severely articulate narrative analysis of the implications of Arnold J. Toynbee’s Study of History, and much else.” It sounds rather forbidding.
Trevor-Roper would say about all this: “I’m not surprised.”
Robert Greaves emails:
“I’m reading a collection of Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories and there are a couple of references to Toynbee you might be interested in.
“The story ‘Jupiter Five’, about a voyage to Jupiter that finds evidence of extra-terrestrial life on one of Jupiter’s moons, starts on a spaceship called the Arnold Toynbee. It was first published in 1953.
“‘Armaments Race’, first published in 1954, is a spoof about a special effects team in Hollywood. To quote the relevant paragraph:
“‘The Mark III [a weapon to be used in a TV series: there had to be many different ones to avoid boring audiences – DD] gave Solly a lot of trouble. (I haven’t missed out one yet, have I? Good.) Not only had it to be a completely new design, but as you’ll have gathered it had to ‘do something’. This was a challenge to Solly’s ingenuity: however, if I may borrow from Professor Toynbee, it was a challenge that evoked the appropriate response.’”
I then had to google “Asimov and Toynbee” (since Clarke and Asimov form a kind of Haydn and Mozart) and it seems that Toynbee was an influence on the Foundation series, although Asimov does not refer to him directly.
Clarke and Asimov both wrote some history. Clarke’s How the World Was One: Beyond the Global Village (1992) is a history of modern communications technology, starting with the laying of undersea cables, which prepared the way for the telegraph (which Tom Standage has called the Victorian Internet).
Asimov’s Chronology of the World (1991), which I think he wrote himself, and published shortly before his death from AIDS, is excellent of its kind and far more use than most world chronologies.
Perhaps what caught the eye of science-fiction writers were sections of A Study of History called Contacts between Civilizations in Space, Contacts between Civilizations in Time and The Doom of Tithonus.
See also Toynbee tiles.
Guardian obituary of Norman Hampson, revisionist historian of the French revolution. “The last of the mid-20th-century British historians, such as Alfred Cobban and Richard Cobb, whose detached and sceptical approach to the French Revolution blew apart the previously unchallenged orthodoxies of the classic French leftwing school.”
I read The First European Revolution (1969) in the Thames & Hudson Library of European Civilization, a series which deserves its own post.
Not this blog’s archives: collections of papers relating to Toynbee. I’ve added a list in the About section on the left.
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, New Bodleian, Oxford, completed 1940
“[Toynbee] was an only son, obviously very talented, and he could not fail to know it: a doting mother and two admiring younger sisters saw to that. Throughout his life he depended on such support: ‘The absence of admiring females,’ says his biographer, ‘was a severe deprivation for him.’ Their adulation ensured self-satisfaction and a certain insensitivity to the opinions and feelings of others. These characteristics, originating in the family, were not corrected by his education; for he became the prize pupil, in succession, of the two most famous academic forcing-houses in England, Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford.
“The education provided there was the classical humanist education of the English governing class since the Renaissance. This education, whatever its value in the formation of character, had, by now, certain intellectual limitations. It was essentially literary. Not only did it exclude the study of science, it also stopped short of any serious understanding of its declared subject, the Greco-Roman world. The perfect pupil, on emerging from it, could read the Greek and Latin authors with ease, imitate their language with virtuosity, and absorb their ideals insofar as they could be made applicable to modern life. But his understanding of Antiquity would be limited to public events as represented by ancient writers and as interpreted in a modern context. Understanding of Antiquity in its own right, in its own context, as undertaken in the eighteenth century by Bentley and Gibbon, was no longer fashionable. It had been left to the Germans, whose immersion in such details was often regarded with condescension. The most famous Greek scholar in England, in Toynbee’s youth, was Gilbert Murray, who saw Euripides and Aristophanes as allies in his own battles for the liberal causes of Edwardian England. Toynbee, who won all the prizes at Winchester and Balliol, was naturally integrated into this tradition, and although he would afterward react against it, he would never escape from its limitations.”
“That training had been centered on two relatively short periods of Greek and Roman history: the two periods of greatest literary achievement. That meant, for Greece, the fifth century BC, the age of the great dramatists and Pericles, culminating in the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, as described by Thucydides, and, for Rome, the last century of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire, the age of Cicero and Lucretius, Horace and Virgil.”
Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Prophet, review of William H McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989, New York Review of Books, October 12 1989.
Andrew Neill: “one of the lowest points in the history of British journalism”.
Alan Bennett, of all people, played Trevor-Roper in the 1991 ITV half-comic drama-documentary Selling Hitler, based on Robert Harris’s book.
Embedding disabled. Click on the image to go to the interview. It will open in a separate window. Scottish Television, 1992.
1903-2000. Here are his Times, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian obituaries on a single page.
Family: Scottish ancestry on both sides. Second son of Walter Runciman, a member of Asquith’s cabinet, and grandson of a shipping magnate, Lord Runciman. His mother was the first wife of an MP also to secure a seat in the Commons.
Career: Born in Northumbria, like Trevor-Roper, and had a similar interest in Scotland, minus the interest in Scott. French, Latin, Greek, Russian. Eton. Trinity, Cambridge. 1925: visited China. 1927: fellowhip at Trinity. The Times: “His rooms in Nevile’s Court were famous for their French 1820s grisaille wallpaper, depicting Cupid and Psyche, and his exquisite bric-a-brac. He kept a green parakeet called Benedict, which he use to spank with a pencil for misdemeanours. He was already immensely grand, and loved socialising. As well as books and pictures – including Edward Lear watercolours – he collected anecdotes and people, and the names in his gossip did not so much drop as float diaphanously.” He sounds like a shyer Cambridge equivalent of Harold Acton, whom he presumably came to know, or Sebastian Flyte. 1937 or ’8: came into a fortune on his father’s death and resigned his fellowship.
Early in the war attaché to British legation in Sofia and for a time in Cairo; also Film Censor in Palestine. In 1941 the Germans advanced on Sofia. A bomb, hidden in the embassy luggage, exploded in the Istanbul hotel, the Pera Palace, to which the embassy had been evacuated and killed eight people in the lobby as he was inspecting his room. 1942-45: professor of Byzantine history and art, University of Istanbul. 1945-47: head of British Council in Athens. Then travelled and wrote. Houses in St John’s Wood and Isle of Eigg. Latter had been bought by his father in 1926. Lectured at University of Baghdad. 1951-67: Chairman of Anglo-Hellenic League. 1957: Fellow of British Academy. 1958: knighted. 1960-62: Gifford Lectures, St Andrews. 1960-75: President of British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. 1965: honorary fellow of Trinity. 1966: sold house on Eigg and moved to Dumfriesshire, near Lockerbie, where this interview is filmed. 1977-84: Chairman of National Trust for Greece. 1984: Companion of Honour. Sympathised with the Serbs over Kossovo.
Friends and acquaintances: Eg Noel Annan, HH and Margot Asquith, Cecil Beaton, Clive Bell, Benjamin Britten, Guy Burgess, JB Bury, Cyril Connolly, George Cukor, Peter Maxwell Davies, Serge Diaghilev, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Roger Fry, Aldous Huxley, John Maynard Keynes, Osbert Lancaster, TE Lawrence, Sophia Loren, Lady Ottoline Morrell, George Orwell, George Seferis, Lytton Strachey, Stephen Tennant, GM Trevelyan, Rex Warner, Edith Wharton, Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Royal houses: Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Greece, Romania, Sarawak, Siam, Spain; Prince Louis of Hesse.
Books, mainly Cambridge University Press:
The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign (1929)
The First Bulgarian Empire (1930)
Byzantine Civilization (1933)
The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (1947)
A History of the Crusades: Volume 1, The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1951)
A History of the Crusades: Volume 2, The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East (1952)
A History of the Crusades: Volume 3, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (1954)
The Eastern Schism: A Study of the Papacy and the Eastern Churches during the XIth and XIIth Centuries (1955)
The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century (1958)
The White Rajahs (1960)
The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 (1965)
The Great Church in Captivity (1968)
The Last Byzantine Renaissance (1970)
The Orthodox Churches and the Secular State (1972)
Byzantine Style and Civilization (1975)
The Byzantine Theocracy (1977)
Mistra: Byzantine Capital of the Peloponnese (1980) (2009 reprint: The Lost Capital of Byzantium: The History of Mistra and the Peloponnese; new Foreword by John Freely)
A Traveller’s Alphabet: Partial Memoirs (1991)
Wrote and presented a television film about Byzantium, Bridge to the East, Channel 4, 1987. Produced and directed by Lydia Carras. Readings by Alan Bates.
The Times: “In Runciman’s eyes the Crusaders were not a chivalrous host who captured but failed to keep the Holy Land: they were the final wave of the barbarian invaders who had destroyed the Roman Empire.”
Quoted in The Times: “High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness; and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against the Holy Ghost.”
And in The Independent: “A vast fiasco … [...] the last and most disastrous of the barbarian invasions.”
In writing about them, he consulted Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, Syriac, Armenian, Slavic and Georgian as well as Latin, Greek and Western vernacular sources.
Runciman’s Cambridge mentor JB Bury had been, in the words of the Guardian, the first British historian to take Byzantium seriously. Toynbee acknowledges him thus in the Study:
J. B. Bury, in A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, [footnote: London 1889, Macmillan, 2 vols.] which I found and read in Moberly Library at Winchester, not only revealed to me the existence of the Orthodox Christian Civilization, but showed me the spectacle of one civilization changing into another under the lens of the historian’s magnifying glass. In the autumn of A.D. 1912 I had the happiness of coming to know the great historian personally.
Runciman may have known Philip Toynbee. Arnold Toynbee was perhaps too strait-laced to have been a close friend. He was also older. But in 1929-30 Runciman covered most of Greece on foot, just as Arnold Toynbee had done in 1911-12. Toynbee occupied the new Koraes chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine Language, Literature and History at King’s College, London from 1919 to ’24. Neither thought that Greek history stopped with Alexander.
I wonder whether Toynbee did not regret not being a more conventional historian for a moment or two when he read Runciman. The grand and romantic narrative of A History of the Crusades was the kind of history which had enthralled him in his youth.
He had been a misfit in the Koraes chair. Was Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World in part a making-up for this? It doesn’t have narrative sweep, but it was a serious contribution to Byzantine studies.
According to Morton, Runciman reviewed Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World in the New Statesman on May 11 1973 and Toynbee reviewed Runciman’s The Eastern Schism in The Observer on October 9 1955. She does not mention reviews of A History of the Crusades, but he did review it, again in The Observer: Vol I on April 29 1951, Vol II on April 2 1952, Vol III on October 31 1954.
The Study cites The First Bulgarian Empire, Vol I of A History of the Crusades and a learned article. Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World cites The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign, Byzantine Civilization and The Medieval Manichee. The Greeks and Their Heritages cites The First Bulgarian Empire, Vol I of A History of the Crusades, The Great Church in Captivity and The Last Byzantine Renaissance.
Hugh Lloyd Jones, Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, reviewing Toynbee’s posthumous The Greeks and Their Heritages in 1982, finds things to admire in his handling of the Byzantine period, but decides that “he shows no awareness of the immense cultural superiority of the Byzantines to the Crusaders which Sir Steven Runciman has so clearly described”.
But the tone of Toynbee’s writing in all his books, his insistence on the eastern Mediterranean as the centre of things, his attitude to Islam, indicate sympathy with Runciman’s view. He calls the Crusaders barbarians in his reviews of Runciman. If in The Greeks and Their Heritages he dwells too little on the nature of Byzantine cultural superiority, is it because he is relatively weak on Byzantine church matters, including art? In the Study, he defines the Crusaders’ barbarism in 1204 by their attitude to classical bronzes.
When these thirteenth-century Western French and Venetian barbarians broke into “the City”, they found it adorned with masterpieces of the classical Hellenic sculptors; and any fifteenth-century Italian pope or despot would have gone and sold all that he had if he had ever been offered the chance of buying a single one of these treasures; yet these Humanists’ thirteenth-century forebears, who held the whole priceless collection in their grasp, could think of no better way of turning Hellenic bronzes to account than to break them up and melt the base metal down for coinage into petty cash.
“Nor,” Lloyd Jones continues, “does he seem conscious that the last age of Byzantium, between the reconquest of Constantinople from the Franks in 1261 and its capture by the Turks in 1453, was in many respects an age of great cultural vitality.”
Then why does he write (citing Runciman and Haussig), on page 113?:
The East Roman Empire’s last phase, which ran from 1261 to 1453 [the Palaeologian age], was politically and economically catastrophic but was artistically creative. [...] The arts [...] throve on the Empire’s decline [...].
Lloyd Jones: “Toynbee says nothing about the conduct of his admired Turks in Cyprus since 1974.”
Lloyd Jones may not have known that Toynbee had had a debilitating stroke on August 3 1974, unless the obituary in Proceedings of the British Academy, which he cites, gives that information (The Greeks and Their Heritages has no omniscient “editor” and his biography had not yet been published), but Toynbee tells us that he is finishing his work in “1974”. And Lloyd Jones must have known that the Turks had landed in Cyprus on July 20. When is all this commentary on Turkish behaviour since 1974 supposed to have taken place?
According to the Telegraph, Runciman’s mother was the first woman to gain a First in History at Cambridge, at what would become Girton College, at a time when women could sit the exams, but not be awarded degrees. According to McNeill, Toynbee’s mother, who studied at what would become Newnham College, and another woman, had been the only history Firsts in Cambridge in their entire year. It is unlikely that Runciman’s mother was older than Toynbee’s. Was she simply the first, in later years, to be awarded the degree?
Peter Maxwell Davies dedicated Eight Songs for a Mad King, one of the grittiest pieces of the ’60s musical avant-garde, to Runciman.
Runciman had acquired a miniature organ which had belonged to George III and with which he had tried to teach birds to sing. In 1966 he demonstrated it to PMD. PMD: “The songs are to be understood as the King’s monologue while listening to his birds perform, and incorporate some sentences actually spoken by George III. The quotations, and a description of most of the incidents to which reference is made, can be found in the chapters on George III in The Court at Windsor by Christopher Hibbert.” The rest of the text is by Randolph Stow.
Telegraph: “He saw much of the world before it subscribed to a uniform culture.”
Runciman: “It’s always dangerous to return to countries unless you’re used to seeing them get nastier and nastier. Athens, which was an enchanting town in the 1920s, is not really a very nice town now. I mustn’t say anything against it because they gave me its gold medal last year.”
The similarities (and a few differences) between Runciman and Leigh Fermor are obvious. Runciman met the younger man in Bulgaria in 1934. “After an early falling out over PLF’s nocturnal excesses in Athens after the war, when Runciman was British Council representative and PLF was Deputy Director of the British Institute, they became lifelong friends.” (Note in Charlotte Mosley, editor, In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor, 2008.)
Sir Patrick Cormack MP on Runciman, quoted in The Independent in 2000: “Only three months ago [aged 97] he was still at the table in the club dining room, composing mischievous limericks about current personalities.”
Patrick Reade on Leigh Fermor in The Independent, June 14 2011: “On 1 June this year, 10 days before his death [at 96], he gave a small lunch party in the cool, stone-arched loggia of his home in Messenia and in the course of conversation we discussed our favourite 16th century pieces of poetry; he declaimed Sir Thomas Wyatt’s entire poem ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek’.”
Interview in the same series with Rumer Godden, author of Black Narcissus and The Greengage Summer.
Another, with Fitzroy MacLean.
Portrait by Stephen Conroy, 1990, Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
The Greeks and Their Heritages, OUP, 1981, posthumous
“To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.”
Many would guess that those lines were by Byron, not Poe. But they do have an American, almost Cecil B DeMille, ring to them. They provided the titles of two books by a famous (in his day, and respected for a long time afterwards) popular historian who was English: JC Stobart (1878-1933).
Wikipedia: “He disagrees with Gibbon’s pessimistic view of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, pointing out that ‘the mere notion of empire continuing to decline and fall for five centuries is ridiculous’ and remarking that ‘this is one of the cases which prove that History is made not so much by heroes or natural forces as by historians’, since ‘if all the Roman historians had perished and only the inscriptions remained we should have a very different picture of the Roman Empire, a picture much brighter and, I think, much more faithful to truth.’”
Five centuries may not have been quite what Gibbon said, but one warms to Stobart on this point. He did not live to read A Study of History, where, if you substitute Hellenic Society for Roman Empire (which Toynbee doesn’t treat as a separate entity), the decline, or rather collapse, starts, or rather occurs, in the fifth century BC. In his Civilization Niall Ferguson, though as far from a classicist as it is possible to be, takes a Stobartian view: Rome declined and fell between 406 and 476. He could perhaps have made his starting date 378. He is fond of telling us that declines of empires can be sharp and sudden.
The Man Who Walked: 2008 profile by William Dalrymple.
A Time to Keep Silence 1957 (The Abbey of St Wandrille de Fontanelle, From Solesmes to La Grande Trappe, The Rock Monasteries of Cappadocia)
A Time of Gifts – On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube 1977 (pre-war travels: PLF left England in December 1933 and arrived in Constantinope on January 1 1935)
Between the Woods and the Water – On Foot to Constantinople: The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates 1986 (a third volume may be published posthumously)
Three Letters from the Andes 1991 (letters to his wife from Peru in 1971)
Artemis Cooper, editor, Words of Mercury 2003 (anthology, including journalism)
Charlotte Mosley, editor, In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor 2008
There are some other forewords, and some translations from French and Greek. He wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s The Roots of Heaven 1958.
Dirk Bogarde played PLF in Powell/Pressburger’s Ill Met by Moonlight 1957 (about the SOE’s landing in Crete in 1944).
PLF was a friend of Philip Toynbee, but not, as far as one knows, of his father, despite their common intimate knowledge, not least as walkers, of Greece.
Peter Brown on Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome, OUP, 2010, New York Review of Books, April 7 (paywall)
The Economist on David Abulafia, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean, Allen Lane, 2011, The Economist, May 5 2011
Adam Kirsch on recent Second World War revisionism, The New York Times, May 27
JH Elliott on Daniel K Richter, Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Pasts, Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2011, New York Review of Books, June 9 2011
It’s about colonial, not pre-colonial, history and is a kind of successor to Alan Taylor, American Colonies, Viking, 2001.
Jonathan Spence on Henry Kissinger, On China, Penguin, 2011, New York Review of Books, June 9 2011