Toynbee Prize Foundation

April 10 2015

For all Toynbee’s importance as a historian, one expects a society inspired by him to be run by sociologists rather than by those of his own profession. Like Othmar Anderle’s International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilisations, founded in Salzburg in 1961 and extant in the US. Toynbee distanced himself from it (McNeill, page 251); its website and newsletters are not those of a front-ranking academic entity. Or by enthusiasts, like the Toynbee Society founded in Japan in 1968 (McNeill, page 269).

He gave his blessing to Japan, but in the previous year had vetoed a proposal for a Toynbee Society in England (McNeill, page 333).

“The use of my name would be bound to revive controversies about my work. I dislike controversy; and I do not want to be diverted by it again from more constructive uses of my time and energy.”

I referred in an old post to Toynbee’s “unusual appeal to the partly-educated outside the West”. Serious scholars, wherever they were, tended to ignore Toynbee because the theoretical basis of his work was judged to be weak. The valuable elements in it were then overlooked.

But the Toynbee Prize Foundation seems respectable and it is heartening to find it. I should have flagged it before. Nor does it appear to be one of those US foundations which hijack old-world ideas to make them serve narrow new-world agendas. Like (to refer to another historian) the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids.

“Named after Arnold J. Toynbee, the Toynbee Prize Foundation was chartered in 1987 ‘to contribute to the development of the social sciences, as defined from a broad historical view of human society and of human and social problems.’ The Foundation seeks to promote scholarly engagement with global history through several activities.

“Foremost among these is the Toynbee Prize, an award granted every other year to recognize outstanding work in global history. As an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, the Foundation sponsors one session at the Association’s annual meeting. In the years in which the Prize is awarded, the recipient presents a lecture. In alternate years, the Foundation sponsors a session on global history.

“More than this, however, the Foundation sponsors engagement with global history through several online activities. It publishes the leading online journal of global history, New Global Studies. It organizes the Global History Forum, an online space that promotes new outstanding work in global history through interviews, conference reports, and thought pieces by both Foundation editors and solicited authors. It supports the publication of content related to diplomatic history on the Network for New Diplomatic History. Finally, it curates content from around the Web for publication on the Global History Blog. These activities reflect the diverse range of ways in which the Foundation contributes to the field of global history – indeed the development of the social sciences writ large.

“The Foundation, based in Massachusetts, is tax exempt under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Address: 255 State St, Boston, MA 02109-2167. My question about how it was funded got this answer from Raymond Grew:

“The Toynbee Prize Foundation is funded by a small endowment to which individuals contribute and by grants from other foundations for specific projects.” We are not told where the money first came from in 1987.

Officers and trustees


Map of global history institutions (which does not include the ISCSC).

William McNeillop cit, was the winner in 2008.

Chakrabarty Dipesh

Dipesh Chakrabarty, the newest recipient

2 Responses to “Toynbee Prize Foundation”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    The list of prizewinners is slightly odd. But not unbalanced: we have Aron as well as Sartre. Several awards were posthumous.

    Michael Adas
    Raymond Aron
    Ralph Buultjens
    Dipesh Chakrabarty
    Lord Kenneth Clark
    Sir Ralf Dahrendorf
    Natalie Zemon Davis
    Albert Hirschman
    George Kennan
    Bruce Mazlish
    John McNeill
    William McNeill
    Jean-Paul Sartre
    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr
    Sir Brian Urquhart
    Barbara Ward, Lady Jackson

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Needless to say, the modern discipline of global history, respectable or not, is attended with much undisciplined post-deconstructionist waffle:

    Link from the Prize Foundation blog. I am not saying there is no meaning here, only that modern academics can’t write clearly.

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