The barbarian hinterland

January 13 2010

Toynbee mischievously parodies his own view of Europe.

From Tripoli to the Alps [en route from Libya to London via Rome] we have been on the qui vive; for we have been flying over historic parts of the Oikoumenê. With the Alps behind us, we can relax; for we are entering the civilized World’s barbarian hinterland. France, Britain, Newfoundland, Alaska: these are countries without a history – or, at any rate, without any history to speak of.

“On the qui vive” here = on the lookout at terrain. From the French sentry’s “Qui vive?” = Long live who? = What are your sympathies, who goes there?

The flight was on April 22 1964. The passage was probably syndicated by The Observer.

The remark was surely aimed at Trevor-Roper, who had said, about black Africa, in a televised lecture at the University of Sussex in October 1963 (reprinted in The Listener in November and then in The Rise of Christian Europe in 1965): “Perhaps in the future there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none: there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness.”

Between Niger and Nile, OUP, 1965

One Response to “The barbarian hinterland”

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