Archive for the 'A Study of History' Category

Owen Chadwick 2

July 25 2015

First post (obits). I have linked to Alan Macfarlane of King’s College, Cambridge before. Here’s a ninety-minute interview of Chadwick by him, recorded in 2008.

I can only describe Chadwick’s smile as papery. From many years in a college. In my late teens I asked for the two volumes of his monumental The Victorian Church for Christmas, to the puzzlement of my family. At school I had had to read, and enjoyed, even if it lacked a certain drama, his The Reformation in the Pelican History of the Church, which he edited and to which he also contributed a volume on the Cold War. His younger brother Henry wrote the one on the early church, RW Southern a fine one on the medieval church.

He mentions DC Somervell in the first part, the man whose abridgements of Toynbee appeared in 1946 and 1957, as his history teacher at Tonbridge. He tells us that Toynbee’s early volumes were coming out then and that Somervell was rather contemptuous of him. But the first three then-uncontroversial volumes were only published in the summer of 1934. And would Somervell have said this? Especially when he wrote to Toynbee on September 11 to say that he had found them “enthrallingly interesting”? I wonder if this is not an academic reflex. Chadwick returns to Toynbee in the second part to show his own disapproval.

Macfarlane’s is a civilised voice, but he doesn’t get all that much out of his subject. But the picture in the Guardian shows Chadwick looking younger at 98 than he does here.

The discussion touches on Cambridge historians: Lord Acton (I met Chadwick at a lunch given for the launch of Roland Hill’s biography of Acton, which Chadwick in some degree mentored), GM Trevelyan, David Knowles, JH Plumb, Hugh Trevor-Roper (who was succeeded at Peterhouse by another ex-Christ Church figure, Henry Chadwick), Peter Laslett, Noel Annan, GR Elton. And others, such as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott.

“The Balkans might be better off at the moment if one or two people like David Owen or Lord Ashdown had known some history.”

Owen and Henry were both ordained Anglicans who were historians. Henry had a theological bent and wrote about the early church. Owen wrote mainly about religion, and the friction of church and state, in the nineteenth century.

Owen read history at St John’s, Cambridge and after the war was made a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Master of Selwyn College, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Regius Professor of Modern History, and was for two years Vice Chancellor of the University.

Henry went to Eton and then Magdalene, Cambridge on a music scholarship, and after the war became a fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Dean of Christ Church, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and then Master of Peterhouse in Cambridge, making him the first person in four centuries (since whom?) to have headed a college at both universities.

Romancing Schliemann

February 14 2015

In the tenth volume of A Study of History (though there were two more to come, almost as afterthoughts), Toynbee is demob-happy. He throws off the scientific scholar’s mask and comes out as an unadulterated romantic. We read about his emotional responses to passages by great and not so great historians and at the sites of historical events. We learn about his heroes. All this is mocked by Trevor-Roper. A long passage about Schliemann, from which I took a fragment in the last post, who overcame all personal difficulties and disadvantages and transformed the study of ancient Greece, is therefore uncritical. I will quote more of it in a future post.

In the present writer’s mind, the heroic exemplar of an invincible curiosity’s response to the challenge of heart-breaking circumstances had always been Heinrich Schliemann (vivebat A.D. 1822-90), ever since a memorable day at Winchester when the writer as a boy had listened spell-bound to his master M. J. Rendall retailing, with zest, the salient episodes of this romantic life in a parenthesis during a session officially allocated to the construing of the Iliad.


[Schliemann], who had spent his fifteenth to his forty-second year (A.D. 1836-63) in accumulating the means, spent his forty-seventh to his sixty-ninth year (A.D. 1868-90) in disinterring from the ground, and retrieving from oblivion, not only Troy, but Ithaca, Mycenae, Orchomenos, and Tiryns as well.

In an Annex, Toynbee, after further examining Schliemann’s international business career, celebrates other businessmen who were also serious scholars: George GroteJames Ford RhodesWalter Leaf. Grote was a banker in Threadneedle Street and wrote a history of Greece which became famous. Rhodes was an American industrialist and historian of the US. Leaf was the chairman of Westminster Bank and the leading Homer exegete of his day. Leaf did much of his work before retiring.

Goethe is Toynbee’s main German hero. But Goethe never visited Greece: he discovered Greek architecture in Sicily and was startled by its simplicity. Toynbee hardly ever mentions Goethe’s

revered plebeian forerunner Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the shoemaker’s son

who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art, also never visited Greece, and has a claim to have been the founder of modern archaeology. The fashion of going to Greece started with Byron, when Goethe was old.

Toynbee, like less romantic people of his generation, hero-worshipped Schliemann, but Schliemann’s shortcomings were well known when he was writing. Schliemann timeline:

1868. Having made his money, visited Homeric sites in Greece and Asia Minor.

1869. Published first book, Ithaka, der Peloponnes und Troja, in which he argued that Hisarlık, a large man-made mound in Asia Minor, not Pınarbaşı, a short distance south of it, was the site of Troy (as it is still thought to be) and that the graves of the Greek commander Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra were not outside the citadel walls at Mycenae but inside them. He wanted to prove that the Iliad and Aeneid reflected historical events.

Married a Greek schoolgirl named Sophia Engastromenos, having divorced his Russian wife, Ekaterina.

1871. Joined the English archaeologist Frank Calvert (whom Britannica confuses with his brother Frederick) at Hisarlık. Schliemann took sole credit for identifying the site even though Charles Maclaren had suggested it as the location of Homeric Troy as early as 1822 and Calvert was the first to dig there.

He and Calvert worked on the eastern half of the site. The Turkish government owned the western half. Schliemann believed that the Homeric Troy must be at the lowest level. 

1873. Uncovered fortifications and the remains of a city (“Troy”) and a treasure of gold jewellery (“Priam’s treasure”). We now know that the level he named the Troy of the Iliad was a thousand years older than Troy.

The treasure even looks anachronistic at this level. Did Schliemann plant it there? His excavations were condemned by later archaeologists as having destroyed the main layers of the real Troy. Even Calvert seems to have had doubts.

“Schliemann may not have discovered the truth, but the publicity stunt worked, making Schliemann and the site famous and igniting the field of Homeric studies in the late 19th century.” (Lauren Stokes, Trojan wars and tourism: a lecture by C. Brian Rose, The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore College, November 23 2005.)

1874. Published Trojanische Alterthümer. His discoveries were received sceptically by many scholars. Others, including Gladstone, and a wide public, accepted his identification.

When he proposed to resume work in February, the Turkish government revoked his permission to dig and sued him for a share of the treasure. Collaborating with Calvert, Schliemann smuggled it out of Turkey. He defended this as an attempt to protect the items from corrupt officials. 

After much haggling the Turkish authorities agreed to drop their claim in return for a large cash sum. It was eventually presented to the German nation and housed in a museum in Berlin. It disappeared in 1945 and reappeared in 1993 in Moscow.

1874-76. Dug first at the site of the Treasury of Minyas at Orchomenus in Boeotia, and found little. Published Troja und seine Ruinen (1875) and began excavation at Mycenae in the Peloponnese. Here, in 1876, he discovered gold, silver, bronze and ivory objects. He believed he had found the tombs of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. His greatest trophy, the Mask of Agamemnon, is now known, once again, to be several centuries older.

Some have said that Schliemann salted his digs with artefacts from elsewhere. He could even have had the mask manufactured on the general model of the other Mycenaean masks and found an opportunity to place it in the excavation.

On this and more, see John Chadwick, review of David Traill, Schliemann of Troy: Treasure and Deceit, Times Higher Education Supplement, June 12 1995, a hatchet-job on his methods and character.

“The Greek authorities have wisely refused to allow [the objects] to be tested; who would want to risk killing a golden goose that attracts the tourists in their thousands? [Has anyone “tested” the treasure in Moscow?] […] [His diaries] frequently disagree with the details given in his books, and show signs of having been tampered with at crucial points. There are too many instances of his improving stories in the telling, or even appropriating to himself events that happened to someone else, for us to be able to accept his word, at least where he could obtain an advantage by the deception. The morals of the market place were imported into the world of scientific scholarship.”

In 1876 he received permission to resume excavations at Hisarlık, but he did not reopen the site until 1878.

1878-79. Published Mykenae. After an unsuccessful excavation on the Ionian island of Ithaca (mentioned in the Odyssey) in 1878, resumed work at Hisarlık. In the following year was joined there by Emile Burnouf and Rudolf Virchow.

1882-83. Third excavation at Troy.

1884. Excavated fortified site of Tiryns, near Mycenae, with Wilhelm Dörpfeld.

1888-90 (his death). Fourth excavation at Troy, with Dörpfeld.

Schliemann thought that there must have existed a civilisation earlier than Mycenaean Hisarlık, and he guessed that it might be in Crete. He had hoped to work there. In the event, the discovery of Minoan Crete was left to Sir Arthur Evans ten years after Schliemann’s death.

(The Mycenaean Greeks controlled the Aegean after the fall, c 1400 BC, of the pre-Greek Minoan civilization – script: Linear A, undeciphered – and built fortified citadels and large palaces. They spoke a form of Greek; script: Linear B, deciphered. Their culture in its last phase is portrayed in the Homeric poems. Their power declined during widespread upheavals at the end of the Mediterranean Bronze Age, around 1100 BC.

When I first learned about Troy, I was bothered by the fact that the Trojans seemed as Greek as the Greeks. In fact, they probably spoke another Indo-European language, widely used in Anatolia, called Luwian, though there are no Trojan inscriptions. It is clear from the Iliad that they had a close relationship with the Greeks on their west. They had a similar relationship with the Hittites on the east.)

Schliemann died in Naples. His corpse was transported to the First Cemetery of Athens and interred in an elaborate mausoleum designed by Ernst Ziller. His palace in Athens, the Iliou Melathron (Ιλίου Μέλαθρον, Palace of Ilium), is now the Numismatic Museum.

Through his books and dispatches to The Times, the Daily Telegraph and other papers, he became the first populariser of archaeology (an equivalent, perhaps, of William Howard Russell as the first war correspondent). He inspired scholars as well as the public. When he died, John Myres said that it seemed that “the spring had gone out of the year”.

When he began excavating, no corpus of accepted practice existed for archaeological fieldwork. He was a pioneer, like Flinders Petrie and Augustus Pitt-Rivers. Stratigraphy had been observed and understood in Danish peat bogs, the Jutland barrows, and prehistoric Swiss lake dwellings, but Hisarlık was the first large dry-land man-made mound ever dug. It is not surprising that Schliemann was puzzled by what he found, but, eventually, with the help of Dörpfeld, he was able to untangle the stratigraphy and admitted his initial mistakes. He did well for someone starting to dig in the 1870s, yet is criticised by those who are excavating similar mounds more than a century later.

Did he, a victim of what Eliza Marian Butler called “the tyranny of Greece over Germany”, get carried away? Was he a con-man? He was certainly learned and spoke and read many languages. His record-keeping was suspect. He seems to have twisted a few things. For Toynbee, his net contributions to knowledge, the fields which he opened up, were so large, and his career was so romantic, that his defects could be overlooked. But GP Gooch had been able to give this account of him in History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century, Longmans, Green and Co, 1913:

“After Thirlwall and Grote [above], Duncker and Curtius, it might seem as if there was only room for monographs; but during the last quarter of the century the discoveries of Schliemann [footnote: See Schuchhardt, Schliemann’s Excavations, 1891.] revolutionised the treatment of early Greek history. At seven he read of the burning of Troy and longed to visit the site, declaring that the fortifications could not have wholly vanished. At ten he wrote a Latin essay on the Trojan war. His father’s poverty compelled him to begin earning his living at fourteen, and it was not till the age of thirty-four that he began to learn Greek. At forty-one he had become a rich man and retired from business. In 1870 he began the excavation of Hissarlik, and in 1874 published his ‘Trojan Antiquities.’ The learned world laughed at his naïve identifications of the objects and buildings described in the Iliad, and he confused the different strata superimposed upon one another. None the less his discoveries aroused world-wide interest, while his shortcomings were only known to scholars. Hindered in his work at Troy by the Turkish Government he transferred his attention to Mycenae, where he discovered the graves of the kings filled with gold and other ornaments. In a telegram to the King of the Hellenes he announced that he had found Agamemnon and his household; but more careful study revealed the fact that the treasure did not belong to a single period and that the number and sex of the persons did not agree with the legend. It was, however, of minor importance whether the body of Agamemnon or of other kings had been found; for he had revealed a vanished civilisation. He next discovered at Orchomenos the so-called Treasury of Minyas, and, after a further visit to Troy in company with Dörpfeld, laid bare the fortress-city of Tiryns, the neighbour of Mycenae.

“When Schliemann died in 1890 he had filled the world with his fame. In twenty years he had unearthed three cities, had revealed Mycenaean civilisation, and had given an incalculable impetus to archaeological research. Yet he was almost pathetically incompetent to interpret the marvellous treasures he had brought to light. He was filled with a romantic attachment to Greece. He married a Greek lady, and called his son Agamemnon and his daughter Andromache. But he possessed neither the training nor the qualities required for the task of scientific excavation. He treated Homer as the historian no less than the poet of the Trojan wars. He held the Mycenaeans to be Homer’s Achaeans, and it was left to others to point out that the civilisation of Mycenae was pre-Homeric, and to Dörpfeld to prove that the city of Hector and Achilles was the sixth, not the second. Schliemann was a pioneer, a conquistador, [footnote: Salomon Reichnach.] and much of his work has had to be done again by Dörpfeld. Like Cesnola, who spent years burrowing in the sites of Cyprus, his sumptuous volumes are of little value for the purposes of exact scholarship. If he revealed the romantic possibilities of excavation, his errors emphasised the need of professional training.”

Heinrich Schliemann


A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Historians of the Ilkhanate

October 8 2014

One of the incidental and undesigned effects of the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids and devastation of ʿIrāq was, as we have noticed already in an earlier context, the birth, in a ci-devant Syriac World’s now derelict north-eastern provinces, of an Iranic Muslim Civilization, affiliated to the Syriac, in which, for most purposes other than the exposition of Islamic theology, a New Persian language and literature were to supplant the Arabic language and literature that had been dominant in all provinces of Dār-al-Islām during the six centuries intervening between the overthrow of the Sasanids by the Primitive Muslim Arab ghāzis and the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids by the pagan Mongols. When a previously oecumenical Arabic culture retreated westwards before the face of the oncoming Mongols into a fastness in Egypt with a glacis in Syria and an eastern frontier at the western elbow of the River Euphrates, a New Persian literature that, by this time, had been on the rise for some three hundred years now at last came fully into its own; and this was perhaps the only creative cultural activity in the conquered and devastated half of Dār-al-Islām that benefited from the disaster on the very morrow of it. During the lifetime of the survivors of a generation in Dār-al-Islām that was old enough to have completed its education in a classical Arabic language and literature before the catastrophe of A.D. 1258, the cultivation of the New Persian language and literature was already relieved of the incubus of the cultural ascendancy of Arabic without being yet impoverished by being cut off from the living sources of Arabic literary inspiration. The period of Mongol domination in Iran and ʿIrāq (currebat A.D. 1258-1337) was an age in which the leading Persian men of letters were still bilingual in the full sense of still being able not merely to read Arabic but also to write in it, as well as in their native Persian tongue; [footnote] and it was also an age which produced incomparably eminent Persian historians, in contrast to both the previous and the subsequent age, in which the brightest stars in the firmament of a New Persian literature were, not historians, but poets. [Footnote.]

[First footnote in last paragraph: This point is made by Browne in op. cit. [Browne, E. G.: A Literary History of Persia […] (Cambridge 1928, University Press)], vol. iii, pp. 62-65. The historian Rashīd-ad-Dīn (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318), for example, made it his practice to arrange for the translation of his Persian works into Arabic and the translation of his Arabic works into Persian. Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s own account of these arrangements of his is quoted verbatim, from man. arabe No. 356, foll. 1 et seqq. in the Bibliothèque Nationale [ci-devant Royale] in Paris, by E. M. Quatremère in his life of Rashīd-ad-Dīn prefixed to his edition of part of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s Jāmiʿ-al-Tawārīkh (“A Comprehensive Collection of Histories”), Histoire des Mongols de la Perse, vol. i (Paris 1836, Imprimerie Royale), pp. cxxxiv-cxxxvi. A student of History will be reminded of the cultural situation in Italy under an Ostrogoth domination (durabat A.D. 493-535), when the leading Italian men of letters were still conversant with Greek as well as with their native Latin.]

[Second footnote: The pre-Mongol age of New Persian literary history had been made illustrious by Firdawsī (vivebat circa A.D. 932-1020/1) and by Saʿdi (vivebat circa A.D. 1184-1292); the post-Mongol [Timurid] age was to be made illustrious by Hāfiz (obiit A.D. 1389) and by Jāmi (vivebat A.D. 1414-92). […]]

Saadi was probably born a little later than Toynbee states and was surely not pre-Mongol: “the unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Khwarezm and Iran led him to wander for thirty years abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq” (Wikipedia). And if he mentions Saadi, why not his contemporary Rumi, the most famous of all Persian poets in the West, who settled in Anatolia?

Later in the same volume he calls a Time of Troubles “an historian’s golden age”.

The ascendancy of the historians in the intervening Il-Khānī Age is significant; and it is no less significant that the two greatest members of this pleiad – ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī (vivebat A.D. 1226-83) and Rashīd-ad-Dīn Fadlallāh Tabīb al-Hamadāni (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318) – were also eminent civil servants in the Mongol Il-Khāns’ service, and that two of the lesser lights, Wassāf-i-Hadrat ʿAbdallāh b. Fadlallāh of Shirāz and Hamdallāh Mustawfī of Qazwīn, both of whom were protégés of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s, were officials of the Il-Khānī Government’s Internal Revenue Department.

The pagan barbarian conquerors of Iran and ʿIrāq, who held out for thirty-seven years (A.D. 1258-95) after their conquest of Baghdad before succumbing to Islam themselves, had found themselves from the outset unable to dispense with the services of their newly acquired Muslim subjects; for the conquerors’ purpose in invading Dār-al-Islām and overthrowing the Caliphate had been to step into the Caliph’s shoes; and the only means by which these interloping barbarians could ensure that, after they had extinguished the Caliphate, the Caliph’s government should be carried on for their benefit was by drawing upon an existing panel of native Persian Muslim professional administrators. The historian ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī’s brother, Shams-ad-Dīn Muhammad Juwaynī, managed the administration of Hūlāgū’s appanage for the conqueror and for his first two successors during twenty-one years (A.D. 1263-84) of the Il-Khānī regime as their sāhib-dīwān, and the two brothers were the sons of a mustawfi’l-mamālik (minister of finance) and the grandsons of a prime minister of a by then already fainéant ʿAbbasid Caliphate’s Khwārizmian successor-state in the north-eastern marches of Dār-al-Islām, over against the Eurasian Steppe, on which the Mongol storm had broken in its full fury in A.D. 1220 at the fiat of a world-conquering Chingis.

A discussion of Rashid-al-Din and Juvayni follows.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The shape of Chinese history

March 16 2014

The “Far Eastern Civilization”, according to Toynbee’s scheme, emerged before AD 500, during a post-Han interregnum, out of a disintegrating “Sinic” civilisation. It began to break down in the late ninth century, at the end of the Tang (618-907). Its Time of Troubles was followed by successive universal states founded by barbarians: the Mongol or Yuan (1280-1351) and Qing (1644-1912) empires, with a Chinese restoration under the Ming (1368-1644).

The “Sinic” civilisation had originated in the Yellow River basin c 1500 BC (Shang, Western Zhou, Eastern Zhou). Its Time of Troubles was the period of the Warring States, which produced Confucius and Lao-tse. The universal states which followed were the Ts’in (Qin) (221-207 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) empires. Under the Han, Mahayana Buddhism arrived from India.

Sinologists scorned the two-civilisation idea and Toynbee’s forcing of Chinese history into his Hellenic model of civilisations. See Wayne Altree, Toynbee’s Treatment of Chinese History in MF Ashley Montagu, editor, Toynbee and History, Critical Essays and Reviews, Boston, Porter Sargent, 1956.

Neo-Confucianism, incidentally, was an attempt, starting under the Tang, to reinterpret Confucius in the light of the Mahayana and at the same time to rid Confucianism of superstitious and mystical elements of Taoism and Buddhism that had influenced it during and after the Han.

The celestial ichor of the Children of Han

March 11 2014

“Chinese blood” would somehow not be the same: fine example, in the last post, of the ornate alias.

Atlas and Antaeus

February 7 2014

Atlas performs the strenuous task of holding up the heavens. Antaeus renews his lightness when he touches the earth.

A blogger called Caryl has some posts about Toynbee in 2007 in From the Catacombs. She describes the use of this pair of allusions very well.

“He makes much of Atlas and Anteaus – the ‘Atlantean stance and the Antaean rebound’. Atlas has to hold up the weight of the Heavens upon his shoulders; Antaeus could not be defeated so long as he was able to evade his enemy’s grasp and touch the earth once again with his feet. Toynbee’s finds in these two contrary movements great meaning for the historical fate of civilizations responding to challenge. The danger of the Atlantean stance is to rigidify into ‘mimesis’ and obsession. The Antaean rebound enables new beginnings, the reappropriation of culture from the depths.”

Atlas’s crime had been an attempt to scale high Heaven; the punishment inflicted on him was to hold high Heaven up; and this was the stance in which the melancholy giant was eventually found by his visitor Hêrakles. In order to grasp the relation between an Atlantean stance and an Antaean rebound, we have to recognize that the Earth, off whose fostering breast a buoyant Antaeus was perpetually bouncing up like an india-rubber ball, and the Firmament whose dead weight was constantly pressing down upon the head and hands of an immobilized Atlas, are merely two different aspects of one and the same psychic continent as seen from opposite quarters of the spiritual compass. This depressing Firmament and refreshing Earth are, in psychic reality, identical. “The choice” between falling into an Atlantean stance and making an Antaean rebound is in truth “fundamentally a question of attitude”.

No footnote to the last phrase, but it is from

Baynes, H. G.: Mythology of the Soul (London 1940, Baillière, Tindall & Cox; 1949, Methuen) […].

Toynbee, as we know, mistrusts renaissances, using words such as “mimesis”, “necromancy”, “archaism”, and is sometimes reluctant to see them as themselves Antaean.

The Hapsburg stance was Atlantaean:

The Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy had been called into existence after the collapse of the Kingdom of Hungary in A.D. 1526 to serve as a carapace for protecting the south-eastern land-frontier of the Western World against Ottoman aggression […]; a union of the remnant of Hungary with the lands of the Bohemian Crown and with the hereditary dominions of the House of Hapsburg proved to be a sufficient mobilization of Western strength to prevent the ʿOsmanlis from making further continental conquests at Western expense; and the rest of the Western World therefore left it to the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy to perform this public service for the Western common weal, without acknowledging its obligation to the Monarchy by submitting to the hegemony of a Caesarea Maiestas whose suzerainty, even within the limits of the Holy Roman Empire, had never been more than nominal, outside the frontiers of the hereditary dominions of the imperial house of the day, since “the Great Interregnum” (vacabat A.D. 1254-73).

The role of unprofitable servants, who had done that which it was their duty to do, without having earned thereby any claim to recognition or reward (Luke xvii. 7-10), was naturally resented by the Hapsburgs of the Danubian line when it was imposed upon them by their Western beneficiaries, and they expressed this resentment by making their weight felt in the interior of the Western World whenever any slackening of the pressure from their Ottoman adversaries gave them an opportunity to neglect their task of serving as wardens of the West’s anti-Ottoman marches. Such opportunities for occasional intervention in the domestic politics of the Western World were expended by the Danubian Hapsburg Power, with remarkable consistency, on Atlantean efforts to uphold lost causes. The ninety-years-long eclipse of the Ottoman Power from the death of Sultan Suleymān I in A.D. 1566 to the appointment of Mehmed Köprülü to be Grand Vezīr in A.D. 1656 – an eclipse that was only momentarily relieved by the meteoric career of Sultan Murād IV (imperabat A.D. 1623-40) – was spent by a Viennese Caesarea Maiestas in Counter-Reformational activities culminating in the Thirty Years’ War (gerebatur A.D. 1618-48). The temporary exhaustion of the Ottoman Power after the Great War of A.D. 1682-99 was taken by the Danubian Hapsburg Power as an opportunity for joining forces with the Netherlands and Great Britain in order to repress King Louis XIV of France for the benefit of British interests. The relief from Ottoman pressure after the collapse of the Ottoman Power in the Russo-Turkish War of A.D. 1768-74 tempted the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy into committing itself to the forlorn hope of repressing the hydra-headed “Ideas of Seventeen Eighty-Nine”, which had no sooner been crushed in their first avatar in the form of a Napoleonic imperialism than they reasserted themselves in the form of a nineteenth-century Romantic Nationalism which the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy was so far from being able to repress that it was first encircled and finally disrupted by it.

It is true that these Atlantean reactions to the raising of a ghost of a Roman Caesarea Maiestas at Vienna were not entirely unaccompanied by Antaean symptoms. The most lively of these was the role which Vienna came to play as a melting-pot for transforming Orthodox Christians or ex-Orthodox Christian Uniates into Westerners. An eloquent memorial of this Antaean activity was the Vienna telephone directory […]; yet, when the history of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy from A.D. 1526 to A.D. 1918 is viewed as a whole in perspective, this Antaean twitch does not perceptibly relax the rigidity of the Monarchy’s Atlantean stance.

If one is speaking about immigration, the UK recently has been Antaean, Japan Atlantaean.

The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans (old post).

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

White radiance

January 22 2014

“Dr Toynbee gives expression to an assemblage of points of view (praejudicia or ‘advance judgements’) which are peculiar to a sensitive mind, and the fruit of its personal experiences, rather than the outcome of a ‘time-spirit’ shared by his age. He is anti-State and (so far as organized religions are concerned) anti-Church: he is for a world-order and a universal religion of all who are earnest ‘seekers’ for truth. True, he is not alone in these feelings: there are other votaries of a political world-order, and others who sigh for a single oecumenical religion: but he is unique in the intensity of his feelings. He combines a passion for impartiality (which leads him, in reaction against Western bias, to exalt the East) with a passion for universalism which makes him the enemy of nationalism and its ‘parochial’ States, and turns him into the apostle of a ‘Catholicism’ transcending not only Catholicism, but also the whole of Christianity, and issuing in an amalgam of all ‘the higher religions’. His desire is for the whole: he is like Shelley: he wants one ‘white radiance’, rather than ‘the many-coloured dome’ which is the actual home of man.”


Ernest BarkerDr Toynbee’s Study of History: A ReviewInternational Affairs, Vol 31, No 1, January 1955.

“Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity”

Shelley, Adonaïs.

Divided loves

January 22 2014

“Dr Toynbee is, in a sense, ambidextrous. He carries and wields both the history of the past (studied and taught in his Oxford days, and never forgotten since) and also the history of the present (which has been his subject during the thirty years of his connexion with Chatham House): with one hand he elucidates the history of the Greco-Roman past, with the other he describes the present of the twentieth century, and with both he draws the two (the Past and the Present) into contact, analogy, and connexion under common laws. He has something of ambivalence as well as ambidexterity. He is enamoured of the present, but he denounces it (it is a home of parochial States and petrified churches); he loves the past and he hates it (for if you seek to exhume it, by the magic of ‘necromancy’, it turns upon you and rends you). For myself, I could wish that he loved the past with a more undivided love – especially the English past. I could wish that he had mastered English history (including the history of parliament and that of the common law) as he has mastered Hellenistic and Oriental history. He would think more highly of the State and its institutions if he had studied the genesis and growth of English parliamentary institutions and the English common law, and had come to see the service they have rendered to freedom of choice and liberty of thought. As it is, he is content to regard all this as ‘merely a local exception to the general course of political development in Western Christendom’. In the index the entry ‘England’ occupies only half a column, and ‘Great Britain’ only two columns: ‘Egypt’ has six.”


Ernest BarkerDr Toynbee’s Study of History: A ReviewInternational Affairs, Vol 31, No 1, January 1955.

Ornate aliases

January 21 2014

“A sad feature of Dr Toynbee’s classicism is its effect on his style. Whatever he may have derived from his study of the thought and history of the Greek past, he has drawn too much from his reading of Greek and Latin literature and from his early training in Greek and Latin composition. He confesses in two of his footnotes that as the result of his ‘fifteenth-century Italian education’ he was led to express his deeper feelings in Greek or Latin verse rather than in the English vernacular, and that he had ‘acquired and retained … an articulateness in Greek and Latin of which he was destitute in his … mother tongue’. Certainly his English style, in these last four volumes, is plus-quam Ciceronian in the prolonged rotundity of its voluminous periods. He writes English almost as if it were a foreign language, in long periodic sentences, with one relative clause piled on, or dovetailed into, another. What is more sad is that he also writes on a high and strained note, with a wealth of curious adjectives (often of condemnation), and with the liberal use of a peculiar technical terminology which falls away into slogans and sometimes even into slang (especially American slang). Add recurrent quotations from the classics (and especially from Lucretius) and a great use of Biblical phrases (so frequent as to pall and even to jar); and the result is a remarkable amalgam. The reader cannot but wish that the style were simpler and the sentences shorter: that adjectives were fewer, less high-pitched, and less far-fetched: that there were more Attic restraint, and less Asiatic luxuriance. The reviewer found himself tempted, again and again, to break up and re-write the long rolling cryptic sentences: in particular he found himself anxious to banish the too frequent use of what he was taught at school to call the ‘ornate alias’, and to substitute, for instance, the words ‘St Paul’ for ‘the Tarsian Jewish apostle of Christianity in partibus infidelium’.”


Ernest BarkerDr Toynbee’s Study of History: A ReviewInternational Affairs, Vol 31, No 1, January 1955.

Whatever the other excesses, I like the donnish ornate aliases. They give the work its charm. I like to be reminded of simple things, such as that Paul was a Jew from Tarsus and preached among pagans.

The horror of the Hannibalic war

November 20 2013

The Hannibalic war in Italy was, very probably, the most terrible war that there has ever been, not excepting the recent war in Europe. The horror of that war haunted later generations, and its mere memory made oblivion seem a desirable release from an intolerable world.

Nil igitur mors est adnos neque pertinet hilum,
quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur.
et velut anteacto nil tempore sensimus aegri,
ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis,
omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu
horrida contremuere sub altis aetheris oris,
in dubioque fuere utrorum ad regna cadendum
omnibus humanis esset terraque marique,
sic, ubi non erimus, cum corporis atque animai
discidium fuerit quibus e sumus uniter apti,
scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum,
accidere omnino poterit sensumque movere,
non si terra mari miscebitur et mare caelo.

That is a passage of Lucretius (iii. 830-842) which follows upon an elaborate argument to prove that death destroys personality and that the soul is not immortal. Here is an attempt at a translation:

“So death is nothing to us and matters nothing to us, since we have proved that the soul is not immortal. And as in time past we felt no ill, when the Phoenicians were pouring in to battle on every front, when the world rocked with the shock and tumult of war and shivered from centre to firmament, when all mankind on sea and land must fall under the victor’s empire and victory was in doubt – so, when we have ceased to be, when body and soul, whose union is our being, have been parted, then nothing can touch us – we shall not be – and nothing can make us feel, no, not if earth is confounded with sea and sea with heaven.”

Lucretius wrote that about a hundred and fifty years after Hannibal evacuated Italy, but the horror is still vivid in his mind, and his poetry arouses it in our minds as we listen. The writer will never forget how those lines kept running in his head during the spring of 1918.

But the victors suffered with the vanquished in the common ruin of civilization. The whole Mediterranean world, and the devastated area in Italy most of all, was shaken by the economic and social revolutions which the Roman wars brought in their train. The proletariat was oppressed to such a degree that the unity of society was permanently destroyed and Greek civilization, after being threatened with a violent extinction by Bolshevik outbreaks – the slave wars in Sicily, the insurrection of Aristonikos and the massacres of Mithradates in Anatolia, the outbreaks of Spartakos and Catilina in Italy – was eventually supplanted by a rival civilization of the proletariat – the Christian Church.

From synoikismos to dissolution (old post).

From chapter called History contributed by Toynbee to RW Livingstone, editor, The Legacy of Greece, Essays by Gilbert Murray, W. R. Inge, J. Burnet, Sir T. L. Heath, D’Arcy W. Thompson, Charles Singer, R. W. Livingstone, A. Toynbee, A. E. Zimmern, Percy Gardner, Sir Reginald Blomfield, OUP (Oxford at the Clarendon Press), 1921

Ghosts of universal states

May 30 2013

The ʿAbbasid Caliphate of Baghdad was […] resuscitated in the shape of the ʿAbbasid Caliphate of Cairo, the Roman Empire in the two rival shapes of the Holy Roman Empire of the West and the East Roman Empire of Orthodox Christendom; the Empire of the Ts’in and Han Dynasties in the shape of the Sui and T’ang Empire of the Far Eastern Society in China. Such ghosts of universal states are conspicuous products of the historical phenomenon of “renaissance” or contact in the Time-dimension between a civilization of the “affiliated” class and the extinct civilization that is related to it by “apparentation”, and, in that aspect, they are dealt with in a later part of this Study.

The four representatives of this spectral species of polity that are here in question display wide differences from one another both in the timing of their evocation and in their subsequent fortunes. Whereas the Sui and T’ang Empire in the Far East and the Holy Roman Empire in the West were not evoked till after an interval of more than four hundred years since the de facto break-up of the universal state of which each of them was respectively a revival, [footnote: The Empire of the Posterior Han became impotent de facto circa A.D. 175; the Far Eastern Society in China was united politically under the Sui Dynasty in A.D. 581. The Roman Empire in the West became impotent de facto after the Clades Gothica of A.D. 378 or, at latest, after the death of the Emperor Theodosius I in A.D. 395; Charlemagne was crowned Emperor in St. Peter’s at Rome on Christmas Day, A. D. 800.] and the East Roman Empire not till after an interval of some hundred and fifty years, [footnote: The Roman Empire in the East ran out between the death of Justinian in A.D. 565 and the overthrow of Maurice in A.D. 602; the East Roman Empire was constructed by Leo Syrus (imperabat A.D. 717-40).] the ʿAbbasid Caliphate was resuscitated at Cairo less than three and a half years after its extinction at Baghdad. [Footnote: See Arnold, op. cit , p. 82, following Suyūtī: Husn-al-Muhddārah, vol. ii, pp. 53 seqq. and 57. The Caliph Mustaʿsim was put to death at Baghdad in February 1258; his uncle was installed at Cairo as the Caliph Mustansir in June 1261.] [The reference is to Arnold, Sir T. W.: The Caliphate (Oxford 1924, Clarendon Press) […].] From the date of their prompt installation in A.D. 1261 by the strong hand of the Mamlūk Sultan Baybars to the date of their almost unnoticed cessation as a result of the conquest and annexation of Egypt by Sultan Selīm I ʿOsmanli in A.D. 1517, the Cairene ʿAbbasid Caliphs were never anything more than the puppets that they were intended to be. [Footnote: When the first of them, Mustansir, showed signs of taking his office seriously, his Mamlūk patron Baybars packed him off to his death, on the forlorn hope of reconquering Baghdad from the Mongols, and installed another member of the ʿAbbasid House in his stead. This lesson was not forgotten by Caliph Hākim and his successors (see Arnold, op. cit., pp. 94-95).] The Holy Roman Empire, after starting as a mighty power in virtue of being imposed upon the Austrasian Frankish state at the culminating moment of its history, shared in the collapse which Charlemagne brought upon his ambitious political structure by recklessly overstraining its resources, and was never more than partially rehabilitated by the successive efforts and sacrifices of Saxon, Franconian, and Swabian heirs of this fatal incubus; yet it survived, at least as a name – the ghost of a ghost – for nearly a thousand years after Charlemagne’s death. [Footnote: Charlemagne died in A.D. 814; the Emperor Francis II Hapsburg renounced the title of Roman Emperor in A.D. 1806 […].] On the other hand the East Roman Empire in the main body of Orthodox Christendom and the Sui and T’ang Empire in the Chinese portion of the Far Eastern World fulfilled the intentions of their respective founders by becoming and remaining solid political realities – the East Roman Empire for more than 250 years [footnote: From the raising of the second Arab siege of Constantinople in A.D. 717 to the outbreak of the Great Romano-Bulgarian War in A.D. 977.] and the Sui and T’ang Empire for not much less than 300 [footnote: From the foundation of the Sui Empire in A.D. 581 to A.D. 878, when the T’ang regime became impotent de facto […].] – but this at the cost, on which their founders certainly never reckoned, of exhausting the strength of the still immature societies on whose life-blood these two lusty vampire-states waxed fat for a season. The common feature, conspicuous above these differences, that concerns us here is the status which these ghosts, like their originals, acquired and retained as founts of legitimacy.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

Misery and iron

May 17 2013

The malady which holds the children of the decadence fast bound in misery and iron [footnote: Psalm cvii. 10.] for generation after generation is no paralysis of their natural faculties as human beings but a breakdown and disintegration of their social heritage, which debars them from finding scope for their unimpaired faculties in effective and creative social action. The wreck of the social structure cribs and cabins and confines their natures like those hideous strait-waistcoats in which, in Ancient Egypt, well-framed and healthy children were deliberately deformed into artificial dwarfs [for the amusement of pharaohs or crowds]. The dwarfing of the epigoni is the effect of the social breakdown and not its cause.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Song of ascents

April 9 2013

“Except the Lord build the house,
their labour is but lost that build it.
“Except the Lord keep the city,
the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Ps. cxxvii. 1-2

On title pages of each of Vols IV-VI of A Study of History, OUP, 1939

Vols I-III

Double great wars

March 17 2013

The social effect of any great war is to speed up the pace of social change; and, when, within the span of a single lifetime, one great war is followed by a second, the cumulative effect is much more than double that of a single great war. In our world in our time we are conscious of this overwhelming cumulative effect in our own experience of the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. In our own case, however, we have not yet had time to see beyond the beginning of the sequel; so perhaps we may find ourselves interested in looking at past instances in which we do know the whole story.

“Double great wars” are rare; but there were three of them in the history of the Graeco-Roman Civilization; and each of these pairs of wars had a decisive effect on the destinies of the society in which it was perpetrated. The first pair was the Archidamian War of 431-421 B.C. followed by the Decelean War of 413-404 B.C.; and this double great war – the Great Atheno-Peloponnesian War – was the occasion of the Greek Civilization’s breakdown. The second pair was the First Romano-Punic War of 264-241 B.C. followed by the Hannibalic [or Second Punic] War of 218-201 B.C.; and this double great war was the occasion of the Greek Civilization’s relapse into a débâcle after a brief third-century rally.

The Roman Empire gave the civilisation a reprieve by providing it with a universal state.

The third pair of great wars was the Romano-Persian War of A.D. 572-90 followed by its successor of A.D. 603-28; and this double great war was the occasion of the Graeco-Roman Society’s final dissolution.

Economic and Social Consequences of the Hannibalic War, lecture about the effects of the second of these double great wars, John Rylands Library, Manchester, March 10 1954; Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Vol 37, No 1, September 1954

Cf similar passage in Vol IX of the Study, published that year, partly quoted here, and see Hannibal’s Legacy, The Hannibalic War’s Effects on Roman Life, Vol I: Rome and Her Neighbours before Hannibal’s Entry, Vol II: Rome and Her Neighbours after Hannibal’s Exit, OUP, 1965

Toynbee and Voegelin

February 24 2013

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).

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

A religious landslide in China

January 19 2013

The Far Eastern Civilization, and its offshoots in Korea and Japan, were “affiliated” through the Mahayana to the Sinic Civilization: the Mahayana was the chrysalis of a new society.

The speed and scale of […] religious landslides appear, as might be expected, to be proportionate to the degree of the pressure exerted on the disintegrating civilization by the barbarian aggressors who are the church’s competitors for this derelict heritage.

[…] we have already observed that in a moribund Sinic World the Mahāyāna began to make appreciable progress after the collapse of the Han Empire [which lasted from 206 BC to AD 220] towards the close of the second century of the Christian Era and its replacement in the third century by the indigenous successor-states known as “the Three Kingdoms”. When, however, in the fourth century of the Christian Era the North was overrun and occupied by Eurasian Nomad war-bands, while the regions south of the watershed between the Yellow River and the Yangtse Basin succeeded in keeping these alien invaders at bay, there was a sudden sharp differentiation in the fortunes of the Mahāyāna in these two now politically differentiated areas. In the North the Mahāyāna now captivated an overwhelming majority of the population – no less than 90 per cent., even according to the testimony of unsympathetic historians of the Confucian School. In the South, where the sense of insecurity was less acute, the new higher religion never succeeded in either absorbing or erasing the old secular culture. Though the strength of the hold which the Mahāyāna obtained there too is attested by the devotion to it of so cultivated a ruler as Liang Wuti (imperabat A.D. 502-49), the tradition of Confucian scholarship and administration succeeded in maintaining in the South a base of operations from which it eventually reasserted itself throughout the domain of a nascent Far Eastern Society.

In Reconsiderations, Toynbee abandons the Sinic-Far Eastern distinction.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954


July 26 2012

The evocation of an inspiringly spiritual meaning out of a crassly material one [last eighteen posts] is an example of a process which, in an earlier context, [footnote: In III. iii. 174-92.] we have learnt to know as “etherialization” and to recognize as a symptom of growth.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

Study Guide

February 14 2012

In the Criticism list, I have added a published summary of Toynbee’s theories which you can get in iBooks for £1.99 (but not in Kindle). I show it as:

editorial board (no single author credited), A Study Guide for Arnold J. Toynbee’s “A Study of History”, Farmington Hills, Michigan, The Gale Group, 2002

I have only seen this electronic edition. I wonder whether it is really older than this. 2002 seems late in the day for student notes: nobody was reading him then. It seems accurate as far as it goes (which isn’t far; I’ll show mistakes in a Comment) and is 39 pages long on my iPad.

Disadvantages of a classical education 2

July 28 2011

Disadvantages of a classical education

“[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.

The Toynbee convector: Criticism

June 4 2011

I’ve elaborated, clarified and simplified the Criticism page, top left, and the Pieter Geyl checklist.

Trevor-Roper and Toynbee

August 11 2010

What does Sisman say about Trevor-Roper’s attacks on Toynbee?

They appeared in two main pieces of journalism during Toynbee’s lifetime:

Testing the Toynbee System, The Sunday Times (London), October 17 1954 (reprinted in MF Ashley Montagu, editor, Toynbee and History, Critical Essays and Reviews, Boston, Porter Sargent, 1956)

Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957 (reprinted in Men and Events, New York, Harper, 1957, but not in Historical Essays, Macmillan, 1957; and in Stephen Spender, Irving Kristol and Melvin J Lasky, editors, Encounters, An Anthology from the First Ten Years of Encounter Magazine, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963)

and in one after it:

The Prophet, review of McNeill’s biography of Toynbee, New York Review of Books, New York, October 12 1989.

His views, and Berenson’s, are also made clear, in more than one letter, in

Richard Davenport-Hines, editor, Letters from Oxford, Hugh Trevor-Roper to Bernard Berenson, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2006.

Criticism here has more detail. The Montagu and Encounter books are online at Questia and perhaps elsewhere. The New York Review of Books piece is online. All for a fee.

The Encounter article is a comic tour-de-force and did the most damage, though it contains more wit than substance. Extracts do not bring out its violence. The review of McNeill is calmer and more searching (it is the best of the bunch), but his views have not changed. It is even more devastating than its intemperate predecessor. All three should be reprinted together. I won’t quote from them except via Sisman and Urban. “Mockery,” McNeill, Toynbee’s biographer, points out, “was more effective than criticism, since it denied the intellectual significance of what it mocked. Toynbee’s reputation has yet to recover […].”

Adam Sisman in Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010, quotes a letter to Roy Harrod, undated, but early October 1954:

“‘Having just reviewed the last four volumes of Arnold Toynbee’s pretentious Study of History which is similar [to Tawney] in its dishonest method. I feel that the whole science of history is being vitiated by these methods whereby theories are first stated as facts on the basis of illustrations arbitrarily selected and then, when challenged, defended by dishonest tricks and a deferential editorial guillotine.’”

“‘Never have I enjoyed a review more than your pasting of Toynbee,’ wrote Noel Annan [to T-R on October 21]. Hugh suggested to the BBC that he should broadcast on this ‘monstrous piece of humbug imposed on a credulous public’, but his proposal was declined. ‘I really don’t think that T.R. is the man to do it,’ commented the experienced Third Programme producer Anna Kallin [note written on T-R’s letter of October 13 to Michael Stephen]. She thought his letter ‘childish’. The right way to tackle the subject was a discussion between Toynbee and a ‘mature’ historian – not an ‘irresponsible youth’ like Trevor-Roper.”

Sisman doesn’t point out that Annan had written in the Manchester Guardian on the very same day:

“How fortunate for us that A Study of History, one of the most striking analyses of life in our times, has been written by a man of such humanity and wisdom and with such a passion for inquiry. Today one feeling for his thirty years’ labour must predominate. Admiration for an achievement which has made his name a household word and history something new and exciting to countless people who needed a wider horizon than the old European landscape. Admiration for the tenacity in completing a task from which he has not permitted war or private troubles to deflect him. Admiration for his humanism, for his sympathy for ages and peoples long departed from this earth, and for his magnificent feat of synthesizing such diverse and intractable material. The scholar’s calling is, after all, to create order where none before existed; and to that calling Professor Toynbee has been faithful.”

Moving on to 1957, Sisman quotes the TES:

“‘If anyone is inclined to associate regius professorships with ripe wisdom, rotundity, and the mellow after-effects of port, let him turn up an article in the current number of Encounter, by H.R. Trevor-Roper, designated Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford,’ urged The Times Education [that should be Educational] Supplement [on June 14], a week after the appointment was announced; ‘it will make him blink.’ Described as a ‘blistering philippic’ by the TES, ‘Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium’ accused Toynbee of predicting (and desiring) the political collapse of the West, and of aspiring to found a new religion, of which he himself would be acclaimed as the prophet. In time, this article would be rated [by Martin Seymour-Smith, Birmingham Post, January 7 1964] as ‘one of the most savage and cruel yet justified and effective attacks on one historian by another ever written’. [But what did Seymour-Smith know?] Conscious that it would be controversial, Hugh had delayed its publication until he was sure of the Regius Chair.

“Arnold Toynbee was then in his late sixties, with a worldwide reputation. His face had appeared on the front cover of Time magazine. His 6,000-page, ten-volume A Study of History was an historical Zeppelin. Though experts often tried to shoot it down, their criticisms had no more effect than the pricks of mosquitoes. Indeed, so enormous was it in size and scope that no other historian was qualified to take its measure. The public regarded this floating giant with awe. It was hailed as ‘an immortal masterpiece’, ‘the greatest work of our time’ and as ‘probably the greatest historical work ever written’. [No attributions. Perhaps Time magazine, or T-R quoting without attributions.] The abridged version of the book became a bestseller, particularly in America. ‘As a dollar earner, we are told,’ commented Hugh [Encounter article], ‘it ranks second only to whisky.’ The author, the captain of this floating leviathan, had acquired the status of a sage.

“Toynbee’s mind offended Hugh because it was fundamentally ‘antirational and illiberal’. Everything that Hugh valued – freedom, reason, the human spirit – Toynbee found odious. [What?] Toynbee hated Western civilisation because it embodied these values. Or so it seemed to Hugh. His taste also rebelled against the obscurity of Toynbee’s prose, and his intellect was repelled by Toynbee’s pervading religiosity. Moreover, Toynbee’s theories were bogus. The volumes he had written pre-war had predicted the end of Western civilisation under the twin assault from fascism and Communism. In fact, the opposite had happened: Western civilisation had defeated fascism and was now holding its own in an ideological struggle with Communism.

“In the final volume of his Study of History, Toynbee claimed to have been singled out for his task; to have received periodic signs of his election; to have been granted special visions; to have been transported through ‘the deep trough of time’ to witness the past in action; to feel, in one brief moment, in communion, not just with this or that episode in history, but with ‘all that had been, and was, and was to come’; and to have sensed ‘the passage of History gently flowing through him in a mighty current, and of his own life welling like a wave in the flow of the vast tide’. [Quotations substantially correct, but I haven’t checked them.]

“Hugh recognised that it was futile to try to tackle Toynbee on his own terms; satire was the best way to expose the egotism concealed beneath Toynbee’s saintly demeanour. The Zeppelin was kept aloft by hot air; once punctured, it would collapse to the ground. Hugh began by separating the volumes of the Study of History into two ‘Testaments’: the pre-war volumes comprising the Old Testament, and the post-war volumes the New. He showed Toynbee to be ‘the prophet’ of a ‘New Universal Church’ – not only that, but close analysis of the text revealed him to be the Messiah too. Scholarly scrutiny uncovered ‘the authentic record of everything that matters in his Life: the minor prophets who dimly heralded his coming; the Holy Family; the precocious Infancy; the youthful Temptations; the missionary Journeys; the Miracles; the Revelations; the Agony’.

“This analysis was preposterous, of course. Yet Toynbee’s absurd preoccupation with himself left him open to this kind of ridicule. As Hugh pointed out, the index entry for ‘Toynbee, Arnold Joseph’ in A Study of History occupied more than twice as much space as the entry for ‘History’ itself. Even Hugh’s use of capital letters echoed Toynbee’s grandiloquent capitalising of abstract terms.

“Hugh’s attack on Toynbee was the subject of newspaper stories across the world, and by no means confined to the highbrow press. […] ‘It is hard to remember when one scholar assaulted another in such a way,’ commented ‘Pendennis’ in The Observer. [Table Talk, June 9.] ‘There are some who say that Mr Trevor-Roper’s vindictiveness, particularly his old-fashioned anti-clericalism, is really a form of adolescent humour,’ ‘Pendennis’ continued. ‘Others are wondering about the influence on undergraduates of a man capable of writing a considered article with such elaborate violence and personal hatred.’

“Hugh received a number of letters congratulating him on his deflation of Toynbee. A.J.P. Taylor’s response [June 4] was characteristic. ‘Your piece on Toynbee’s millennium was the most brilliant thing I have read for many years,’ he enthused. A month afterwards [July 6] he referred to it approvingly in the New Statesman. ‘The best thing in Trevor-Roper’s article was the description of Toynbee’s creed as ‘the religion of mish-mash’; the phrase was mine.’”

Hardly the best thing. Summarised thus, minus the wit, T-R’s attack seems thin. He didn’t like the religious content in the book, he thought the cyclical theories were bogus (which they were when pushed beyond a certain point), and he found Toynbee egotistical. I won’t repeat my views in detail. Toynbee’s prose is Latinate, sinuous, often contorted, but never “obscure”. It was not a “bogus theory” to predict “the end of Western civilisation under the twin assault from fascism and Communism”, if that is indeed what he did. And to mock him, at length, as a self-appointed religious prophet is merely nonsense. Did T-R attack over-studious fellow-pupils when he was at school? Toynbee’s autobiographical passages in the tenth volume, which made T-R think he was “unhinged” (letter to Berenson, September 8 1954), were more expressions of pietas than egotistical. They were innocent.

T-R of course admired Toynbee’s other arch-critic, Pieter Geyl, a great historian who was as much a hero for him as Burckhardt. He writes to Berenson on February 5 1953:

“He is […] in a class by himself, or perhaps a class which he shares with Namier, Braudel, and one or two others.”

One cannot read a page of Geyl without agreeing. But Geyl’s criticisms of Toynbee were criticisms of substance. He also gives Toynbee his due. Trevor-Roper merely added a note of comedy. But he was writing in the mainstream English media.

Trevor-Roper accused Toynbee of looking forward to the downfall of the West. George Urban referred to the accusation in his conversations with Toynbee which were broadcast on Radio Free Europe in 1972-3 and published in book form in the following year, the last Toynbee title to appear in his lifetime.

URBAN: Hugh Trevor-Roper […], in a very bitter and extremely personal attack against you in Encounter, said in so many words that he found the character of your work not only erroneous but “hateful”:

Toynbee does not only utter false arguments and dogmatic statements, calling them “scientific” and “empirical”; he does not only preach a gospel of deliberate obscurantism; he seems to undermine our will, welcome our defeat, gloat over the extinction of our civilization, not because he supports the form of civilization which threatens us, but because he is animated by what we can only call a masochistic desire to be conquered. If Hitler and Stalin rejoiced in the prospect of destroying the West, theirs at least was a crude, intelligible rejoicing. They smacked their lips because they looked for plunder. Toynbee has no such clear interests in supporting a conqueror. He hungers spiritually not for this or that conquest, but for our defeat.

I have corrected that quotation slightly, referring to the text as shown in the 1963 book.

TOYNBEE: I made some personal enquiries because I was concerned and curious about Trevor-Roper’s attack. Apparently he thinks I have deliberately set out to be a prophet and to lay the foundations of a future cult. This is of course quite fantastic, but the fact that he, I’m sure bona fide, believes this to be true throws light on his own thinking. I was told he has an almost physical horror of my attitude to life. Now in our talk today we have already seen the real justification of Trevor-Roper’s view that I am prophetic, in the sense that I care immensely about what is going to happen after I am dead. As to Trevor-Roper’s imputation that I somehow relished the prospect of the Western democracies’ collapse under the impact of nazism, I can only say that this is nonsense, and it is not even plausible nonsense. All through the Second World War I was working day and night for the British Government, and my reactions were like those of the rest of the British: In 1940 I didn’t see how we could possibly win, but I assumed, like everybody else here, that we would go on fighting. And when the news came of Pearl Harbor, I thought to myself, why, Hitler has lost the war – I was thrilled and exhilarated at the prospect that we were going to be on the winning side after all. No, Trevor-Roper labors under an illusion. If you were to ask people at the Foreign Office for whom I was working during the war, they might say I was doing my job efficiently or inefficiently, but they would certainly say I was working whole heartedly for the victory of Britain and the defeat of Hitler. I thought it would be the most terrible thing for Europe if Hitler won. One must distinguish between not seeing how Hitler could fail to win, which was very difficult to see in 1940, and wishing Hitler to win. I never wished Hitler to win – with all my heart I wished him to lose and be defeated.

URBAN: Trevor-Roper, to do him justice, didn’t say in so many words that you were hoping or working for nazi victory – although he did say that you were the unconscious intellectual ally of Hitler in the non-nazi world; the brunt of his attack was that the Second World War did not bring about the death of our civilization – which it ought to have done if there was truth in the laws of your Study – and that you were consequently disappointed. The years 1939-45 did not, he says, change your eagerness to see the West destroyed.

TOYNBEE: I’m a Westerner; I have a stake in the West’s future, I value Western civilization, and I don’t want to see it go under. Secondly, I have always been a great anti-imperialist, a supporter of the underdog. I have always wanted to see the domination of the West over the rest of the world reduced again to its normal position of equality with the other present-day civilizations. For instance, I was thoroughly in favor of the British Labor Government giving independence to India, Pakistan, and Ceylon in 1947, but this is different from wishing the West to disappear. I have often written that the West is a minority in numbers, and, as technological superiority is a wasting asset because in time other people learn what the West has invented, it is very important – and in the West’s interest – that we should come down to a footing of equality in good time, rather than be overthrown, clinging to power, and then have the roles reversed. But this is not anti-Western – it is pro-Western: a wish for the preservation of the Western civilization as one among a number of different civilizations.

The West’s ascendancy over the rest of the world during the last three centuries has been reflected in the recent Western way of looking at mankind’s history as all leading up to the modern West. I think this West-centered view of history is a palpable case of subjectivism; it seems to me to misrepresent the reality and, in so far as it distorts it, to make it unintelligible.

In the third place, I have always been very cautious in prophesying about living civilizations because I realize that I’m in the middle of the story. I have always said that retrospectively I can see the patterns, the regularities of history – though I recognize that this is very controversial – but that one cannot spot current or future patterns and prophesy that the West is or is not going to fall, or that any other thing is or is not going to happen. It is impossible to do this because there is – or so it seems to me – an element of unpredictability, of free will in human affairs. For all these reasons Trevor-Roper’s attack on me on this point is not borne out by what I’ve said or done.

I would say Trevor-Roper himself is not entirely detached – no human being can be. We are all actors in the drama we are watching. Perhaps in studying atoms and electrons, a human being can be purely a spectator (I’m not even sure about that), but certainly in studying other human beings’ behavior he cannot be purely a spectator; he can be a spectator but he is also a participant, even if the other human being is paleolithic man, because we are all part of human society, we all share in human destiny – we are involved. I think it is an illusion to imagine that the historian can escape from this personal involvement: If you could escape from it you would really stultify yourself for dealing with human affairs, because in saying that now I have to discard one kind of enquiry because it would be subjective, and then another because it would be political or prophetic, by the time you had finished you’d have discarded the study of human affairs and said: I’ve got to be a physicist or mathematician, I cannot study human affairs at all. This comes out in quantification. The possibility of quantifying some aspect of human activity successfully varies in inverse ratio to the human importance of that particular aspect. This comes out very clearly in those fascinating tables in Sorokin’s books: He is most successful where his tables matter least.

URBAN: I feel some of Trevor-Roper’s imputations are too farfetched to be taken at face value. Nevertheless, your conception of the role of history and of the historian is so elevated that one could call it religious without, I believe, violating your meaning. Your Study is certainly a theodicy […].

Sisman tells us that the (blind) Indian writer Ved Mehta interviewed Trevor-Roper (and Toynbee and other eminent Englishmen) for The New Yorker. (The date is unclear from Sisman’s notes. Presumably 1962. Morton’s Toynbee bibliography mentions a piece by Mehta, which may not be the interview, in The New Yorker on December 8 1962.) He read Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium in preparation.

“In Mehta’s judgement Hugh was ‘the cruellest and most lacerating’ of Toynbee’s critics, and his article on Taylor had been ‘only a little less violent’. Afterwards Mehta reflected that Hugh had a gift for marshalling the faults of an historian ‘without a grain of sympathy. … He put me in mind of a literary critic who has no love for writers, whose criticism is not an enhancement of our understanding, an invitation to read the book again in the light of his interpretation, but simply an instrument of destruction.’ Though on further reflection, Mehta speculated that perhaps the explanation for the violence of this polemic lay not with Hugh’s psychology, but with England itself:

‘Going for the largest game, creating an intellectual sensation, striking a posture, sometimes at the expense of truth, stating the arguments against a book or its author in the most relentless, sometimes violent way, engaging the interest of practically the whole intelligentsia by using every nook and cranny of journalism, carrying on a bitter war of words in public but keeping friendships intact in private, generally enjoying the fun of going against the grain – all these features prominent in historical disputation were also part of the broader English mental scene.’”

Some or all of this is in Mehta’s Fly and the Fly-Bottle, Encounters with British Intellectuals, Boston, Little Brown, 1962. Perhaps Mehta’s inclination towards Toynbee was part of a broader, usually ill-focussed, emerging-world interest in Toynbee. Wikipedia’s article on T-R has a reference to “Saleh, Zaki (1958). Trevor-Roper’s Critique of Arnold Toynbee: A Symptom of Intellectual Chaos. Baghdad: Al-Ma’eref Press”. I have not looked at this or the Mehta piece.

In 1967 Raghavan Iyer quoted a poem by Edwin Markham in the presence of Toynbee. “He”, Iyer implies, is a traditional Western historian, while “Love and I” write from a different perspective:

“He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”

In his conversations with Urban, Toynbee tries to account for the animosity among historians and to go a little deeper than Mehta:

— it’s the odium theologicum of our time. There is a difference between British and non-British historians, but there is also – as I know from the reviews of different installments of my book – a difference between pre-Second World War historians and post-Second World War historians on this point of acrimony, temper, and animus. The first six volumes of my Study were reviewed before the Second World War; some of the reviews were just as critical, just as condemnatory, if you like, as later reviews, but they were all good tempered and polite, and however strongly they censured me, there was no kind of personal, or even abstract, hostility. Since the war it’s not only I who’ve been savagely attacked by his fellow historians, and I’m not sure that the viciousness of the infighting is peculiar to historians. If you took a sample of British reviews of poetry, novels, and scientific works you would probably find the same. I’ve thought about this a good deal, and I suspect the acrimony has something to do with the unhappy things that have happened to the British since the war. It may be a consciousness of Britain having become a second-class power instead of a first-class power. We have, by the standards of past empires, behaved rather well – we left India before we were kicked out, and have decolonized our whole empire; we have accepted the fact that the pound is not the world’s reserve currency, and that we are a minor nuclear power. But while on the surface a nation may seem reasonable, underneath it she may be subconsciously boiling, and this comes out in bitterness and aggressiveness. There are cases in history in which a big reverse in a country’s relations with the outer world is followed by fratricidal wars. Take fifteenth century English history: We had one of our biggest reverses in Joan of Arc; we were pushed out of France ignominiously, but immediately after, instead of feeling that they were companions in misfortune, the English fought a very brutal civil war, the Wars of the Roses. So this infighting and savagery may be the psychological effects of having come down in the world and having to digest the reverses. Does this sound like a reasonable explanation?

Reasonable enough to me. And T-R had a wit and eloquence which demanded, almost libidinously, to be used. Hence his clashes with many others.

The most aggressive, and probably the most unnecessary, of all the polemics published at the expense of a living figure in England in this period was FR Leavis’s against CP Snow in The Spectator on March 9 1962. Even Macaulay’s altercation with Southey was couched in different terms.

Toynbee points out in the long twelfth volume, Reconsiderations, that

the purpose of publishing books and reviewing them is, not to defend and attack personal positions, but to co-operate in working for the advancement of knowledge and understanding […].

In its Introduction he states, without mentioning Trevor-Roper:

When I am playing the role of a reviewer I find it a useful rule to remind myself of the indubitable truth that a reviewer inevitably reviews himself, too, in the act of reviewing the author whose book lies on his dissecting table. Whenever a reviewer is tempted to treat an author as a dart-board he should remember that the missile which his hand is itching to lance is not a dart but a boomerang.

Whether or not Trevor-Roper had demeaned himself, there was a certain justice when, with the Hitler diaries fiasco, he suffered an embarrassment as great as any he had tried to inflict on others. And he was then condemned to the same level of journalism that he had caused to be suffered by Toynbee. Sisman:

“‘Hitler Diaries Hoax Victim Lord Dacre dies at 89’, The Times reported on the day after his death. It printed a shrewd but malicious obituary by his old adversary Maurice Cowling. This was an unkind way for a serious newspaper to remember one of its own directors, especially as the paper itself bore some responsibility for the gaffe. Other obituaries suggested that Hugh’s reputation as an historian had been ‘damaged’, ‘tarnished’, or ‘besmirched’. A 1992 piece in The Daily Telegraph had described him as ‘once eminent but now discredited’.”

The same journalists are now writing about a Trevor-Roper “revival” because of his Nachlass. (Since his death, we have had his biggest book by number of pages, a life of Theodore de Mayerne; a study of Scottish history; a new volume of essays; letters to Berenson; now the Sisman biography. Sisman tells us that there is more to come, including at least two more volumes of essays, early memoirs, perhaps more letters, and some notebooks. The uncollected journalism alone must be important, because many of his essays were reviews, and he was a supreme essayist. Sisman points out that, if you define a book in a certain way, there were only three “proper” books in his lifetime: Archbishop Laud, The Last Days of Hitler – even that modern classic, surely, is an extended essay – and the delectable Hermit of Peking. Laud was almost juvenilia.)

Rubbery” (immune from criticism, according to Richard Pares) as Toynbee seemed, Geyl’s and others’ criticisms led him to write a long twelfth volume of the Study, after the Atlas. An Annex in it, called Ad Hominem, replied to some of the personal attacks and contained four sections:

1. Acknowledgements and Thanks to My Critics
2. Effects of a Classical Education
(i) Fortunate Effects
(ii) Unfortunate Effects
(a) Effects on my Writing of English
(b) Effects on the Range of my Knowledge
3. Effects of Having been Born in 1889 and in England
4. Effects of Being What One Is
[can “being” have effects?]
(i) Irreverence towards Pretensions to Uniqueness
(ii) Disregard for Scholarly Caution

He was surely glad to have spent a career breathing fresher air than that in the stuffy closet of the English historical guild.

Toynbee refers to Trevor-Roper half a dozen times en passant in Reconsiderations (the references are not worth summarising here), but could not engage with him in a sustained way, since Trevor-Roper himself had used mockery, not reasoned argument. He writes of the Encounter piece merely:

On the article as a whole, no comment.

He reviewed The Last Days of Hitler in the Saturday Review, a US weekly, on August 16 1947: his only piece of journalism about T-R. I am sure that it was a kind review.

Sisman’s detailed and readable book is 648 pages long. Good subject as T-R is, something elegant and of more Roperian length might have sufficed. He had T-R’s blessing, but says that he was placed under no constraints. His writing is competent journalese.

Reviews: ObserverTelegraph, Guardian, IndependentNew Statesman.

Buy it here.

There is no African history

Trevor-Roper, last photograph

Toynbee on Toynbee, A Conversation between Arnold J Toynbee and GR Urban, New York, OUP, 1974

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961 (footnote)

Pieter Geyl checklist

August 9 2010

Details under Criticism, but here are the main critical writings by Geyl on Toynbee, alongside the publications by Geyl where they can be found most easily by readers in the UK:

1. Can We Know the Pattern of the Past?

in The Pattern of the Past: Can We Determine It?, Boston, Beacon Press, 1949 (transcript of a radio discussion between Geyl and Toynbee, BBC Third Programme, Sundays, January 4 and March 7 1948; it seems to be one discussion broadcast twice)

2. Toynbee’s System of Civilizations
3. Prophets of Doom (Sorokin and Toynbee)
4. Toynbee Once More: Empiricism or Apriorism? and
5. Toynbee the Prophet (The Last Four Volumes)

all in Debates with Historians, Batsford, 1955, and

6. Toynbee’s Answer

in Encounters in History, Collins, 1963

Then and now

August 1 2010

The revelation of Thucydides

I expected to be a Greek and Roman historian spending all my time and energy on Greek and Roman history. My first job was at Oxford where I was a so-called ancient history don – and I started by absorbing as much knowledge of my subject as I could. And when I had taken my degree I began to absorb what I hadn’t studied as an undergraduate. I was teaching Greek and Roman history when the First World War broke out and it suddenly struck me, teaching people from Thucydides, that Thucydides had already anticipated our experiences, namely the outbreak of a great war, which he immediately saw as a turning point in the history of his civilization. We were just coming to that point, which meant that although Thucydides was centuries back in chronological time, measured by the experience of human affairs and destiny he had already experienced what I was just reaching, and this made me see that one could put Greek and Roman history side by side with modern Western history and compare them right outside the chronological framework. This rather sudden flash of insight made me realize that I must organize my study of history – not just amass more and more shapeless information – and that I must organize it on comparative lines. Next, I found that comparing Greek and Roman history with only modern Western history wouldn’t do – I must compare all the histories of all civilizations and obtain enough information about each of them to make a reasonable comparative study of the gamut of them. The patterns and regularities which you find in my Study emerged empirically from these comparisons.

A pose of empiricism

Toynbee on Toynbee, A Conversation between Arnold J Toynbee and GR Urban, New York, OUP, 1974

Recorded for the 1972-73 programmes of Radio Free Europe.

Paul Johnson’s Brief Lives

July 17 2010

Johnson’s Brief Lives are two hundred-odd gossipy pieces about people he has met or known. They are not even as biographical as Aubrey’s. The title is a misnomer as well as a copy.

The subtitle on the cover is An Intimate and Very Personal Portrait of the Twentieth Century. Very.

There is a joint entry on Arnold Toynbee and his son Philip.

“It is extraordinary to think that when I first went up to Oxford in 1946 many people regarded Arnold Toynbee as the world’s greatest living historian. The first six volumes of his A Short History appeared that year.”

No, they didn’t. Somervell’s abridgement of the first six volumes of the Study appeared in 1946 in one volume. There was no book called A Short History of anything. The first three volumes of the main work had appeared in 1934, the next three in 1939. It is extraordinary to think that American interviewers regularly introduce Paul Johnson as “the great historian”.

“It was immediately denounced by Hugh Trevor-Roper, and many other academics (especially Peter Geyl, who wrote a superb essay about it) as a pretentious fraud.”

No, it was not. Trevor-Roper made his first denunciation in 1954, eight years later, when the last four volumes appeared. Geyl wrote not one essay, but several equally important ones, and his name was Pieter not Peter.

And Geyl and Trevor-Roper concerned themselves only with the original work, not with the abridgement.

“But, considering its length (four more volumes appeared in 1957, … ”

No. The last four volumes appeared in 1954. Somervell’s abridgement of the last four appeared in 1957 in one volume.

“ … then two more in 1961, … ”

No, only one in 1961.

“ … and a condensation the same year; … )”

No condensation between 1957 and 1972.

“After politics, journalism has always been the preferred career of the ambitious but lazy second-rater”: Gore Vidal, View from the Diners Club, 1991. Johnson thinks that his gossip will be authentic if he doesn’t check anything. That is apparently how he writes history. His lazy and second-rate publisher, Hutchinson, takes him at his word.

“I dipped into it a lot but whenever I came across an event I knew about, Toynbee always got it slightly, sometimes profoundly, wrong.”

Give us an example.

“I complained about this to A. L. Rowse, who said: ‘He is certainly all wrong about Queen Elizabeth. The only book he seems to have read is Lytton Strachey’s Elizabeth and Essex.’”

He was probably right, but there is something almost comically provincial in Rowse, of whom I am a great fan, fishing out “Elizabeth” from the ocean of historical references in A Study of History.

Toynbee admitted that he knew nothing about English history. His detractors said that he knew nothing about any history other than the history of territories at some stage occupied or directly influenced by the Greeks.

“‘I read some of it [Rowse continues] because it was attacked so ferociously by Hugh Roper. [Johnson usually calls Trevor-Roper “Roper”.] As Hugh is wrong about so many things I thought he might be wrong about this too. But I fear he is right. Not that Arnold will mind, as he is the most insufferably conceited man in creation.’”

Geyl and Trevor-Roper also saw an irritating conceit in Toynbee. Nothing would touch him. Johnson’s passage confirms that all three of the Oxford triumvirate of my day – Trevor-Roper, Taylor, Rowse – agreed about Toynbee. There is a mildly critical reference to him in Rowse’s entertaining All Souls in My Time (1993), and Rowse quotes Richard Pares’s description of him as a “rubbery man”; there are two more in Historians I Have Known (1996). I suppose Pares meant that criticisms seemed to bounce off him or make no mark on him, or he considered him an escapologist or contortionist.


“Rowse related to me a conversation between Churchill and Attlee at the Commons. Churchill: ‘Have you read this man Toynbee?’ ‘A bit.’ ‘What do you think of it?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘Same here.’ ‘Who do you think is our best historian?’ ‘Arthur Bryant.’ ‘So do I.’ Rowse laughed: ‘And why not? He is good. Though not as good as me.’”

This not very brilliant anecdote reminds us of the other great demolition of a modern English historian’s reputation. Trevor-Roper destroyed Toynbee’s, Andrew Roberts exposed the once popular Arthur Bryant as an arch-toady and appeaser in Patriotism: The Last Refuge of Sir Arthur Bryant, an essay in his Eminent Churchillians (1994). That book, incidentally, lists Toynbee as an appeasement historian. There was a tendency in Toynbee in that direction, but you cannot apply the label to him without many qualifications, and not after Abyssinia.


“By all accounts, Toynbee was an obsessive worker. The only time I met him, he said to me: ‘Make a plan for each workday. Never lose a minute. People waste a lot of time over meals. I don’t. Napoleon never spent more than ten minutes over a meal, if he could help it. I do the same. Walking is good, because you see and learn things. All other sports and exercise are a waste of time and energy.’ He leaned towards me confidentially (we were at a Chatham House party): ‘You can waste a lot of time on – er – well – sex. There again, Napoleon is an example. He believed copulation should never take more than ten minutes.’ I thought he was a grandiose booby but I remembered what he said about Napoleon – another count against the monster.”

This, of course, is vulgar caricature. The first part is credible, though if you read Toynbee’s letters, you do not get the impression of a man incapable of relaxing. Toynbee worked at a Victorian pace, but he enjoyed food and wine and company, and travel. The tendency for ordinary meals to drag on is anyway modern. Family meals in old-fashioned houses were regular and short. The same was no doubt true of sex, but I do not believe the last part of this very Johnsonian anecdote. He would have been too dignified to say this.

“Toynbee’s austerity and work obsession must have made life with him hell. He married a daughter of the great Gilbert Murray, but the marriage did not last.”

It did. It lasted thirty-two years. Does he know why Gilbert Murray was great?

“They had three sons, of whom I knew Philip, for many years the chief literary critic of the Observer. When Philip was in his sixties, he sent his father, still alive but pretty old, a long, itemised bill, coming to (I think) about £80,000, and headed ‘For Ruining My Childhood.’”

No, he did not. When Philip was in his sixties, his father was dead.

The “(I think)” is in the manner of Aubrey. At least he admits here that he might be wrong. McNeill does not mention this bill in his biography of Toynbee, but the story is credible even if we are not told its source. Toynbee was a distant father. When people are present and absent at the same time, absorbed in their own world, the effect on people around them can be more devastating than if they are physically away. Toynbee’s oldest son Tony committed suicide in 1939. His middle son Philip exhibited bouts of attention-seeking and self-pity, drank, and suffered in later life from severe depression.

“He meant it seriously, too, though naturally Arnold did not pay up. Philip was tall, like his father, and handsome in a rough and primitive way. As a boy he had been a Communist, along with Esmond Romilly, who married the CP Mitford girl, Jessica. They ran away from school, Philip from Rugby, Romilly from Wellington. Philip was, so he said, the first Communist President of the Oxford Union. But in the war he was a captain. When I knew him he was famous for founding, with Ben Nicolson (Harold’s son) a ‘progressive’ lunch club, at Bertorelli’s. I was never invited to one of their ‘do’s’, being part of a rival gang. In any case, I was always careful never to sit next to Philip at a meal as he was liable to get horribly drunk and vomit all over you. As a critic he was erratic. He made a fool of himself over Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, which he hailed as a masterpiece and helped to make into an ephemeral bestseller. But his work was gradually taken over by his religiosity. He attacked my History of Christianity for not devoting enough attention to mysticism. He certainly did not make that mistake himself. All his energies [not quite all] went into a gigantic poem, Pantaloon, never published in full. So he became a famous bore, like his father, though in a different way.”

Why be so unpleasant about him? He was a troubled but not an uninteresting man, even if no one is going to read Pantaloon.

Most journalistic utterances about Arnold Toynbee are shoddy. Why not praise the nobility of his undertaking or his scholarship in “straight” works such as Hannibal’s Legacy? Why not ask yourself why you find his work merely “repellent”, a word Johnson uses?

His opinions are second-hand. Discrimination is harder work. Johnson likes it easy. If there were to be a new Ten Commandments for those who do not believe in God and don’t think that they need to be told not to steal, the most demanding would have to be: “Don’t jump on bandwagons.”

This passage probably does not contain his own insight, but it perhaps says something about Greene:

“The trouble with Greene was that he went to a school (Berkhamsted) where his father was headmaster. This set up in him an unresolvable conflict of allegiance – should he be loyal to his friends or to his father? – and this led, in practice, to a deep-rooted instinct to betray.”

He develops the point for a few lines. There is an absurd non sequitur at the end. And whom or what did Greene betray?

His piece on Trevor-Roper gets the years of his birth and death wrong (they are his brother’s years) and says that his Archbishop Laud was published before the war when it was published during it. Trevor-Roper was made a life peer in 1979, when his wife was seventy-two, but Johnson tells us that after that things started to go wrong and his marriage was childless.

One or two passages aside, the name-dropping is rampant, the thoughts trivial, the language fake upper-class, the writing slovenly, the anecdotes humourless. The nadir is reached in the section on Forster.

“I saw him once [it’s often “once” in this book], in Pall Mall, standing on the steps of the Reform Club. He wore an old mackintosh, stained, greasy and crumpled. The figure struck me as the epitome of the Man in the Dirty Raincoat. It began to rain as he hesitated on the top step. Then he turned up his collar so that only his big, sharp nose showed, moved gingerly down the steps, crossed the road and headed for Soho. Going cruising, was he? Cottaging? Better say: looking for copy.”

The Hellenist lobby

June 2 2010

Jacket blurb of Richard Clogg, Politics and the Academy, Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, Routledge, 2004. Buy here.

“During the First World War King’s College of the University of London became a leading centre for the study of Russia and Eastern Europe. Its principal, Ronald Burrows, a committed philhellene and devoted admirer of the Greek prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, had a particular interest in the promotion of Byzantine and Modern Greek studies. It was Burrows’ enthusiasm, supported by Venizelos, that led to the establishment in 1919 of the Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature. The endowment for the chair was raised by a group of wealthy Anglo-Greeks, while the Greek government provided an annual subsidy. The 29-year-old historian Arnold Toynbee was chosen as the first incumbent of the chair.

“In 1921 Toynbee, on leave of absence, covered the Greek-Turkish war in Asia Minor for the Manchester Guardian and reported on the atrocities committed by Greek troops. On his return he wrote The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, which appeared in the summer of 1922 shortly before the rout of the Greek forces by the Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). Toynbee’s writings and his growing sympathy for the Turkish cause enraged the Greek donors of the chair who, grouped in a Subscribers’ Committee, put strong pressure on the college and university authorities. Toynbee also came under fire from an influential group of colleagues. The cumulative furore forced Toynbee to resign from the chair in 1924 at the end of his first five-year term.

“Now the papers of the major protagonists have enabled a detailed reconstruction to be made of the interaction of international and academic politics. The controversy has some contemporary relevance as it touches on fundamental questions of academic freedom and on the problems inherent in the reliance of academic institutions on outside sources of funding.”

Toynbee, apparently, had not known of the existence of the Subscribers’ Committee when he took the chair. Modern parallel: denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, at DePaul University, Chicago, in 2007. Did Toynbee’s views on Israel eventually marginalise him in the US? When did the lobby tighten its grip?

The fifth chapter in McNeill’s biography is about Toynbee’s changing views of near-eastern politics and how events there in the ’20s confirmed him in positions he had taken in the Foreign Office towards the end of the First World War; and about his changing ideas on history before and during the King’s years, and how they were leading him towards the Study. It is hard not to feel some sympathy with the Greeks in the row in which it all culminated. Were they being so unreasonable?

Ancient Greece in the King’s entrance hall (Sophocles by Constantin Dausch, a copy of a Roman copy, the Lateran Sophocles at the Vatican; Sappho by Ferdinand Seeboeck, original; both commissioned by Frida Mond, wife of Ludwig, and passing to King’s on her death in 1923)


Trevor-Roper, Gibbon and Toynbee 2

May 24 2010

Trevor-Roper, Gibbon and Toynbee

By way of a parergon to the last post, there’s a sting in the tail of Toynbee’s expression of thanks to Gibbon in the Acknowledgements and Thanks section of the Study. Of the dozens acknowledged, Marcus Aurelius is mentioned first, Toynbee’s mother second, Gibbon third.

To Edward Gibbon, for showing me, by Example, what an Historian could do

Edward Gibbon, in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has always been my cynosure; and I have come to appreciate the greatness of his intellectual powers as I have come to realize that he did almost all that he did do by sheer intellectual prowess, in despite of the handicap imposed on his imagination by the narrowness of his sympathies with the human objects of his historical studies.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Trevor-Roper, Gibbon and Toynbee

May 23 2010

Hugh Trevor-Roper was one of the twentieth century’s best writers of English, directly comparable to Waugh (who wrote a Decline and Fall). His medium was the essay. David Womersley (professional page) asks in Standpoint:

“Who was the greatest English historian of the mid-20th century? Was it that flamboyant ancestor of our current rash of teledons, A. J. P. Taylor? That severe technician, Lewis Namier? That progenitor of endless dullness, E. P. Thompson? Confronted by such contenders, judgment is baffled. However, if you narrow the question to ‘who was the greatest historical stylist’, there is no competition. Hugh Trevor-Roper suddenly emerges at the head of the field. How did he do it? It’s clear that Trevor-Roper’s élan as an historian was partly derived from his great 18th-century counterpart on whom he wrote so often and so well, Edward Gibbon. But why did Trevor-Roper make such a close study of this great predecessor? What sustenance did he draw from him?”

I’m presenting Womersley’s main points here in something different from their original sequence. Closing a quotation mark shows a break. He says that there were two Gibbons for Trevor-Roper: “[…] a companionable Gibbon – a source of stylistic solace and inspiration, a brilliant scourge with which to lash the grey specialists who were polluting the groves of Clio, particularly in Oxford. But he also admired a more remote Gibbon – the man who stood alone and unchallenged on the summit of European historiography.”

“That Neapolitan martyr to papal oppression [Womersley’s “thats”, illes, seem an imitation of Trevor-Roper], Giannone, had led Gibbon towards an awareness that the subject of the decline and fall of the Roman empire was the greatest historical problem thrown up by the Enlightenment, because of the challenge it seemed to pose to the Enlightenment’s darling doctrine of progress.” Gibbon placed the historical effects of religion at the heart of his answer (“I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion”); Pietro Giannone had been excommunicated for writing about the malign influence of the Church in his Storia civile del regno di Napoli (1723).

Trevor-Roper discussed Gibbon in a series of essays, articles and lectures. “And he lent his weight and authority to the re-publication of Gibbon’s own writings – the reprint of A Vindication in 1961; the abridgements [two different ones?] of the Decline and Fall for which he wrote introductions in 1963 and 1970; and, as an appropriate coping-stone, his substantial introduction to the six-volume complete Decline and Fall published by Everyman in 1993.”

“[…] there was a core of a few details of the historian’s biography, and a few – indeed, surprisingly few – passages of the Decline and Fall, to which Trevor-Roper returned time and again. What constituted this core?

“First, Trevor-Roper would lay heavy emphasis on the importance of Gibbon’s removal from Oxford after converting to Catholicism, and his consequent translation to Lausanne, which his father had imposed on him so that he might become again a compliant Protestant [which he did]. From this episode, Trevor-Roper drew two consequences. The first, and less important, was that the débâcle of Gibbon’s time at Oxford and his withdrawal from the University had put the pre-eminent historian outside the ‘historical guild’. […]

“The second, and more significant, consequence of the move to Lausanne was that it liberated Gibbon’s mind and made him ‘intellectually not an Englishman at all’. This un-English dimension was important to Trevor-Roper’s view of Gibbon, not simply because he took pleasure in the smiting of all parochialisms, but because it corroborated his interpretation of the Decline and Fall as a European work which merely happened to be written in English. He liked to remind his audiences and his readers of the fact that Gibbon had originally intended to write his history in French, before being dissuaded from doing so by David Hume.”

“Montesquieu had released Gibbon from the pulverising Pyrrhonism of Bayle and Voltaire [on matters of dogma], had [furthermore] oriented his stance on matters of religion away from sterile questions of doctrinal truth or falsehood, and had encouraged him to view religion through the lens of social function.

“Trevor-Roper [underlined] the Decline and Fall’s commitment to the view that civilisation was safe and human progress could not be undone because Western Europe was not vulnerable to calamitous change in the manner of the Roman Empire. This interpretation of the Decline and Fall as at root an anti-imperial work which described and celebrated how the 18th-century European republic of Christian monarchies had taken wing from the ashes of despotic antiquity has much to be said for it. Trevor-Roper was fond of […] drawing attention to Gibbon’s […] hatred of ‘immobilisation’, his commitment to ‘the free circulation of goods and ideas’, and his preference for open, rather than closed societies – characteristics illustrated typically by a contrast drawn with Voltaire, by Gibbon’s censure of monasticism in the Decline and Fall, and by his insistence to Lord Sheffield that his library should be broken up and sold after his death, on the grounds that he was ‘a friend to the circulation of property of every kind’.” Circulation of information, openness. In what way does any of this present a contrast with Voltaire?

“A different passage of the Decline and Fall was repeatedly used to show that, notwithstanding the hysterical response to the notorious ‘two chapters’ [15 and 16, which contained some of his most critical remarks about religion], which concluded the first volume of the Decline and Fall, when he contemplated religion Gibbon was indeed a follower of Montesquieu, rather than a disciple of Voltaire. […] The passage to which he gravitated was the final section of chapter 54, perhaps the most brilliant chapter in the entire history, which traces the fortunes of the obscure Byzantine sect of the Paulicians, before broadening to offer in little more than 1,000 words an extraordinary account of the progress of Christianity in Europe since the Reformation. Trevor-Roper particularly relished Gibbon’s challenge to the Reformers’ self-image as the liberators of the minds of men from the spurious doctrines of Roman Catholicism, notably transubstantiation.

“For, as Gibbon had acutely noted:

‘ … the loss of one mystery was amply compensated by the stupendous doctrines of original sin, redemption, faith, grace, and predestination, which have been strained from the epistles of St Paul. These subtle questions had most assuredly been prepared by the fathers and schoolmen; but the final improvement and popular use may be attributed to the first reformers, who enforced them as the absolute and essential terms of salvation. Hitherto the weight of supernatural belief inclines against the Protestants; and many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God, than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant.’”

But “Gibbon’s criterion [in preferring one form of religion to another] is always social or humanitarian or intellectual: it is never doctrinal.”

“Some of the more memorable sallies in his reviews of publications on Gibbon were dictated by his disdain for those he saw as the myrmidons of Gibbonian scholarship, and their depraved appetite for the dust of textual minutiae […].”

“Trevor-Roper often reflected with deep satisfaction on the fact that Gibbon had been no professional historian, but had pursued his researches and composed his unrivalled narrative unsupported by any institution and in the character of a private scholar. Gibbon’s estrangement from the ‘historical guild’ made him, too, a foe of those ‘solemn professionals’ against whom Trevor-Roper himself, throughout his career, waged implacable war. Gibbon was thus an important early member of that informal and engaging party with which Trevor-Roper always associated himself – the party of ‘the laity and the gaiety’.”

Womersley tells us that in a notebook entry dated May 1944, and headed “The Solution”, he confided: “To write a book that someone, one day, will mention in the same breath as Gibbon – this is my fond ambition.” It never happened. Trevor-Roper wrote important books, but no magnum opus.

“When Hume had said of his own day that ‘this is the historical age’, he had seen that the advanced social thought of the time had thrown up problems that demanded the arbitration of the historian, and of the historian alone. Well might Trevor-Roper wryly agree that Gibbon had drawn a high prize in the lottery of life. He had been a supremely gifted historian whose powers were at their peak when history, of all the intellectual disciplines, had the most important work to do.

“But the second half of the 20th century was not such a time. Whatever the modern equivalent was to the Enlightenment problem of progress, it was unlikely to be answered by a book on the English Civil War, no matter how accomplished. Indeed, whatever it was, it was very possibly not a problem for historians at all. Perhaps it was a problem for physicists, or biologists. The moment of history’s intellectual hegemony had passed, perhaps never to return. Truly to emulate Gibbon was now impossible, and those who attempted it, such as Toynbee, succeeded in producing only gassy, shapeless, unhistorical monsters, as Trevor-Roper himself had reported in a letter to Berenson, in which superficial amusement at Toynbee’s folly was chilled by an undercurrent of dismay at its significance for the writing of history.

“Trevor-Roper was too wise to fall into the gulf of uncritical complacency into which Toynbee had rushed headlong. But the price of such wisdom was to suffer a version of the last pain which Tertullian had devised for the damned – the pain of seeing, but not sharing, the pleasures of the historians’ Paradise. It was for this reason that the greatest English historian of the 20th century was most at home in the form of the essay.”


Was that such an exile? Trevor-Roper has often appeared here, since he made himself the English arch-critic of Toynbee.

Something swaggering was trapped in that prose’s perfection. His dislike of Toynbee’s work was visceral and expressed in mockery. Yet Toynbee resembled Gibbon in some ways. He deserted Oxford just as Gibbon did (and as Trevor-Roper, in his letters to Berenson, always pretended that he wanted to), stood outside what Womersley calls the “historical guild”, and smote parochialisms. But Trevor-Roper admires Gibbon’s cosmopolitanism and has contempt for Toynbee’s globalism.

Toynbee would have “lashed the grey specialists” if lashing had been his way. Specialisation was necessary, but it should not be exclusive. He produced some monumental volumes of specialised straight history. Trevor-Roper dreamed of producing a Great Work comparable with Gibbon. Toynbee wrote (letter to his mother, June 30 1907, quoted in McNeill): “It would be a splendid task to carry on Herodotus’s story [of the wars between Europe and the East] … but it would be too vast.” And (less modestly, and mocked by Trevor-Roper): “As for Ambition with a great screaming A, I have got it pretty strong. I want to be a great gigantic historian – not for fame but because there is lots of work in the world to be done, and I am greedy for as big a share of it as I can get. … I am going to research and become a vast historical Gelehrte” (letter to RS Darbishire, January 30 1910, quoted in McNeill).

For Toynbee, as for Trevor-Roper, “there was a core of a few details of the historian’s biography, and a few […] passages of the Decline and Fall, to which [he] returned time and again”. Toynbee would return to the passage about the Antonines in chapter 3, always as a foil for his own idée fixe about the Hellenic civilisation having broken down five centuries earlier. And he would remind us how unprepared Gibbon was for the events of the French revolution, which ended the spell of low ideological temperature of the age between the Wars of Religion and the Wars of Nationality and shattered his illusion of a “Western Europe […] not vulnerable to calamitous change”, just as the events of 1914 would shatter Toynbee’s.

Toynbee seemed to be treating the Enlightenment as a mere interval or episode. He was not only a deluded schematiser and purveyor of a “philosophy of mish-mash”; he seemed to be hankering after a religiously-guided world which had held sway before the idolatrous worship of “parochial states” had set humanity on the road to 1914. Religion was being dragged out again after it had been put in its place.

Trevor-Roper cannot find it in him to praise the majesty or sincerity of Toynbee’s effort, but he need not have felt “an undercurrent of dismay at [Toynbee’s work’s] significance for the writing of history”, since Toynbee had no direct imitators.

In the inaugural lecture for the Greek-funded Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine Language, Literature and History at King’s College in the University of London, which Toynbee occupied from 1919 to 1924, Johannes Gennadius, a figure in the Greek diaspora in London, defended the historic greatness of Byzantium against the sneers of Gibbon which, he believed, still distorted English understanding of Greek history. And, absurd though it sounds when modern Greeks say they invented democracy, the idea of successive ancient, medieval and modern Greeces was one which Toynbee examined in his essay in The Balkans, a book with several contributors, OUP, 1915, and in his final, posthumous The Greeks and Their Heritages, OUP, 1981.

I will summarise Toynbee’s rather equivocal view of Gibbon when I have looked at all his passages on him. Trevor-Roper’s writings about Toynbee are listed here. I think he says only one nice thing about Toynbee. In the 1989 piece he writes: “He was very learned.”

See Duncan Fallowell’s Telegraph review of Trevor-Roper’s correspondence with Berenson.

Namier was not always severe. His essays on eastern Europe in Looking East are lively, and one can see his influence on his protegé Taylor. He was a friend of Toynbee.

Adam Sisman’s biography of Trevor-Roper will be published on July 8.

The function of a universal state

May 9 2010

By liquidating a host of idolized parochial states without succeeding in inspiring the same degree of devotion to itself, a universal state liberates, for conversion to the worship of God, psychic energy that has previously been concentrated on mutually conflicting idolatrous worships of Man’s Collective Self.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1934


April 27 2010

“… all the great baroque stage machinery of the Study …”


W Warren Wagar, Toynbee as a Prophet of World Civilization, in CT McIntire and Marvin Perry, editors, Toynbee: Reappraisals, University of Toronto Press, 1989.

Image at (Universidad de Navarra)

Debt to Eduard Meyer

March 30 2010

Eduard Meyer, in his essay “Der Gang der alten Geschichte: Hellas und Rom”, [footnote: In his Kleine Schriften (Halle 1910, Niemeyer), pp. 231-2.] helped me to break away from the conventional nineteenth-century Western presentation of History as a play in three acts – “Ancient, Medieval, and Modern” – by showing me that the history of “Greece and Rome” was a unity, and that this unity was a whole that was complete in itself with its own Dark Age, Middle Age, and Modern Age. This unitary view of Greek and Roman history, which Eduard Meyer had given me, led me to look for a unitary name to describe the society whose history this was. I labelled it “the Hellenic Civilization”, and, when once I had identified one civilization, twenty other societies of the same species came into focus, one after another, in my field of historical vision.


Eduard Meyer, in his masterly picture of the Achaemenian Empire, [footnote: Meyer, E.: Geschichte des Altertums, vol. iii (Stuttgart 1901, Cotta), Erstes Buch: Der Orient unter der Herrschaft der Perser, pp. 1-233.] revealed to me the specific historical function of a universal state. By liquidating a host of idolized parochial states without succeeding in inspiring the same degree of devotion to itself, a universal state liberates, for conversion to the worship of God, psychic energy that has previously been concentrated on mutually conflicting idolatrous worships of Man’s Collective Self.

Meyer, 1910/11, by Lovis Corinth

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

A pose of humility

January 30 2010

I wrote this a few days ago in response to a comment on an old post.

“Trevor-Roper thought the humility was a pose and that Toynbee was rather arrogant and never actually listened to criticisms. Vol XII for T-R and others is a masterful exercise in evasion. T got on the wrong side of both historians and philosophers. He was not a trained philosopher and commits some howlers. He worked out a certain, limited, philosophy for himself and did not pretend to be an expert. I agree with you that this came from a mystical leaning.

“As to God, he was if anything a deist.

“I’ve more or less given up the idea of doing a synopsis! I think I used the word ‘may’ about that! What I would like to do if I have time (it would suit the blog format) is look at all of the specific criticisms (pretty devastating on some matters) made of SOH and put them next to what T actually said. And then see how he replied (if he did) in Vol XII.”

As a writer of English Trevor-Roper was the equal of Waugh, but he had the eye and manner of a playground bully.

A pose of empiricism

Hugh Lloyd-Jones

October 9 2009

Telegraph obituary. “As part of his wartime work, Lloyd-Jones had learned Japanese, and noticed how it was impossible, or at least difficult, to express certain Western concepts in that language. When he returned to Oxford, he set out in an essay for his tutor to refute St Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God by showing the difficulties of expressing it in Japanese. It was this, perhaps, that convinced him of the dangers of imposing anachronistic thought structures on the work of ancient writers.”

Hugh Lloyd-Jones was Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford from 1960 to 1989. Hugh Trevor-Roper was Regius Professor of Modern History there from 1957 to 1980. Lloyd-Jones was a Student of Christ Church. I often saw him when I was a student there with a small s, but I was not a classicist, so I was not taught by him.

Did this Hugh share the other Hugh’s opinion of Toynbee? He would have been a more natural opponent, since his field was Toynbee’s specialisation. Morton’s bibliography of Toynbee (1980) lists only one piece by Lloyd-Jones: a 1959 review in The Spectator of Hellenism.

A quick view of the web turns up a review (Prodigious Powers, London Review of Books, January 21-February 3 1982) by Lloyd-Jones of a posthumous work by Toynbee, The Greeks and Their Heritages (1981). It was reprinted in Lloyd-Jones’s Greek in a Cold Climate (1991).

It begins with a guarded sentence. “This posthumous work provides yet more evidence of the phenomenal energy and wide range of information of the late Arnold Toynbee.”

“Wide range of information.” There were many ways in which Toynbee was uncongenial to the Oxford academic establishment. I needn’t summarise them. A historian who wrote about God as if he existed was anyway not “one of us”, ontology or no. Lloyd-Jones has qualified respect for this late book (which McNeill, Toynbee’s biographer, fails even to mention). He begins by summarising, in more or less neutral tones, Toynbee’s life and intellectual evolution, with the help of McNeill’s obituary notice in the 1977 Proceedings of the British Academy. Somervell’s abridgement of A Study of History made Toynbee, he says, “the Tolkein of historical studies”. I made that parallel myself in an early post. The date of publication of the final volumes of the Study was 1954, not 1953.

“Toynbee had studied all the latest speculations about Bronze Age Greece, and knew all about it that could be known – and indeed rather more than all: he does not hesitate to accept the somewhat sanguine speculations of the late TBL Webster, a scholar with whom he had several things in common.”

He finds Toynbee’s resumé of the Hellenistic period “unexciting”. Toynbee, “for all his learning, remained rooted in an attitude fashionable when he was young”: that it was all over by the end of the fifth century BC. This attitude, the dating of the beginning of the decline of Greek civilisation to the start of the Peloponnesian War, was hardly modified during the course of Toynbee’s career. It gave him (I am not paraphrasing Lloyd-Jones here) the shape of the history of Greco-Roman, or as he called it, the Hellenic, civilisation, a plot which he proceeded to superimpose on the histories of other civilisations.

“He notes that the movement to reproduce the style and language of Classical Attic prose started during the first century BC. That was also the moment when the Academy went over from scepticism to dogmatism, and the whole trend of philosophy followed suit: it was then, rather than three centuries earlier, that the real decline began. Toynbee is again old-fashioned in his refusal to see that the archaising revival of Greek culture in the second century AD had some things to be said for it: the writers of the Second Sophistic are lively compared with the Byzantine imitators of the Classics.”

Lloyd-Jones finds things to admire in Toynbee’s handling of the Byzantine period. But “he shows no awareness of the immense cultural superiority of the Byzantines to the Crusaders which Sir Steven Runciman has so clearly described [surely he does elsewhere], nor 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 [the Palaeologian age], was in many respects an age of great cultural vitality. What condemns the Byzantines is the fact that they were defeated by the Turks: Toynbee displays the same servility towards success as E.H. Carr. He has an interesting appendix on Gemistos Plethon, but exaggerates his inclination to paganism and underestimates the influence of his philosophy. A few pages of Edgar Wind’s Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance supply a corrective in both matters.”

When we come to 1921, Toynbee “castigates the Greeks for having clung to ‘the Great Idea’: the hope of the re-establishment of something like the Eastern Empire with its capital in Constantinople. In 1921 it did not seem so foolish: the Turks had paid the penalty for their alliance with the Germans, and the Versailles Conference seriously considered the possibility of handing back the Imperial city to the Greeks. Lloyd George was captivated by the charismatic leader of a race living near to sea and mountains with whom he had much in common, Eleftherios Venizelos, and only Edward Montagu’s [he means Edwin Montagu’s] exaggerated fears of a ‘Khilafat’ agitation in India seem to have led him to give up the plan. If the universal weariness of war had not led the Allies to disperse their armies, they might have imposed a settlement in the Middle East which would have saved much trouble later, just as they might have dealt with Lenin.

“Toynbee goes on to discuss the language question in Greece, berating those Greeks who cling, at least for certain purposes, to the use of the katharevousa, the allegedly ‘pure’ form of Greek that is essentially an artificial revival of the Classical language. In its naïvest form, the cult of the katharevousa is undoubtedly ridiculous, and the attempt of the Colonels to enforce its use in schools can hardly be defended. Yet it has in its time served certain purposes. After the Greeks had been deprived of education and cut off from the Western world for four centuries, it was necessary to create a language suitable for various kinds of technical and abstract writing. Of those kinds of literature which are in some degree affected by it, not every one is to be condemned, and the nostalgia which created and preserved it can easily be understood. Modern Greek writers write in a variety of styles and a variety of linguistic forms, and in spite of the confusion caused by the language question, they have been able to make use of the possibilities which their situation offered them to create a literature which compares well with those produced by many richer and more favoured countries during the same period. Neither the English in general, nor Toynbee in particular, with his clear but not very distinguished style, are in a position to patronise them.”

The criticism of Toynbee’s style – he is at his least readable in this book – that it is “undistinguished” misses the mark, it seems to me. The Economist said the same thing in a review of McNeill’s biography in 1989. It is too individual to be called undistinguished, and it was heavily influenced by his classical education. Occasionally it is poetic.

“Just as an Irishman when he thinks historically places emphasis on certain events not stressed by English people, so does a Greek think much of happenings often forgotten by Western Europeans. He cannot forget that after the western half of the Roman Empire had collapsed, its eastern half carried on for a millennium; that after the western half had sufficiently civilised the barbarians who swamped it to achieve a partial recovery, it set out to defend the holy places of the common religion of the Empire against the infidel; that the Westerners took advantage of this situation to make a treacherous attack on the Easterners and rob them of their Imperial city; that after the Eastern Empire had most remarkably revived itself, the Westerners, even when appeased by a promise to adopt their own uncongenial form of Christianity, allowed it to be conquered and occupied by a barbarian enemy, preferring Muslims to Orthodox fellow Christians. In the war of liberation that began in 1821, the West did something to atone for this, but the Greeks can hardly be expected to forget that, in the years immediately following the Great War, the West encouraged hopes which it later disappointed. Toynbee says nothing about the conduct of his admired Turks in Cyprus since 1974.”

He could hardly have done so. They invaded less than a fortnight before he suffered a stroke which ended his career.

“Professor McNeill justly credits Toynbee with ‘prodigious powers of concentration, phenomenal memory and sheer physical endurance of a regime at which most men would have quailed’: this is fully borne out by the book before me. He also ascribes to him the possession of ‘a very powerful intellect’: this seems a good deal more open to dispute.”

From synoikismos to dissolution 2

July 27 2009

I’ve corrected the first post. It looks at a sketch of Greco-Roman history which Toynbee published in 1921, and refers forward to ideas which he developed in the Study.

In the Study he seems to regard Rome as nothing more than an extension and continuation of Greece. Its historical function was to give a reprieve to a Greek civilisation which had broken down.

That view was criticised as according too little cultural value to Rome. Toynbee restated his position in the twelfth volume of the Study, Reconsiderations, in a passage of just under twenty pages called Rome’s Place in History. This sounds like the title of a Victorian school essay, but is a good place to start if you want a succinct summary of Toynbee’s view of Roman history. I’ll quote from it later.

Gibbon’s error

July 26 2009

This post is really a footnote to the last.

I think Gibbon [errs] in supposing that the ancient civilization of the Graeco-Roman world began to decline in the second century after Christ and that the age of the Antonines was that civilization’s highest point. I think it really began to decline in the fifth century before Christ. It died not by murder, but by suicide; and that act of suicide was committed before the fifth century B.C. was out.

Gibbon wrote of “the triumph of barbarism and religion”, but Christianity was the chrysalis of a new civilisation rather than the destroyer of an old.

It was not even the philosophies which preceded Christianity that were responsible for the death of the ancient Graeco-Roman civilization. The philosophies arose because the civic life of that civilization had already destroyed itself by turning itself into an idol to which men paid an exorbitant worship. And the rise of the philosophies, and the subsequent rise of the religions out of which Christianity emerged as the final successor of them all, was something that happened after the Graeco-Roman civilization had already put itself to death. The rise of the philosophies, and a fortiori that of the religions, was not a cause; it was a consequence.

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948

From synoikismos to dissolution

July 25 2009

The three-act tragedy of the Greco-Roman world.


A passage, published in 1921, which helps us to understand Toynbee’s view of the Greco-Roman world and, by extension, of other societies.

The genesis of Ancient Greek civilization is certainly later than the twelfth century B.C., when Minoan civilization, its predecessor, was still in process of dissolution; and the termination of Ancient Greek civilization must certainly be placed before the eighth century A.D., when modern Western civilization, its successor, had already come into being. Between these extreme points we cannot exactly date its beginning and end, but we can see that it covers a period of seventeen or eighteen centuries.

The curtain rises with the Dorian invasion. Presumably Toynbee, in whose work such classifications mattered, saw Mycenaean Greece, up to about 1400 BC, as a cultural province of the Minoan civilisation.

He regards the “Hellenic Society”, “Ancient Greek civilization” as he terms it here, as having included Rome: it is obvious to him that Rome was not a new civilisation.

It is easier to divide the tragedy into acts [than to look at eighteen centuries at once]. We can at once discern two dramatic crises – the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War and the foundation of the Roman Empire. We can for convenience take precise dates – 431 B.C. and 31 B.C. – and group the action into three acts or phases, one before, one between, and one after these critical moments.

It is best to give the analysis in tabular form:

Act I (11th cent.–431 B.C.).

1. Synoikismos (formation of the city-state, the cell of Greek society), 11th cent.-750 B.C.

2. Colonization (propagation of the city-state round the Mediterranean), 750-600 B.C.

3. Economic revolution (change from extensive to intensive growth), 600-500 B.C.

4. Confederation (repulse of Oriental universal empire and creation of an inter-state federation, the Delian League), 500-431 B.C.

Act II (431 B.C.-31 B.C.).

1. The Greek wars [Peloponnesian and after] (failure of inter-state federation), 431-355 B.C.

2. The Oriental wars (the superman, conquest of the East, struggle for the spoils, barbarian invasion [Gauls]), 355-272 B.C.

3. The first rally (change of scale and fresh experiments in federation – Seleucid Asia, Roman Italy, Aetolian and Achaean “United States”), 272-218 B.C.

4. The Roman wars (destruction of four great powers by one; devastation of the Mediterranean world), 218-146 B.C.

5. The class wars (capitalism, bolshevism, Napoleonism), 146-31 B.C.

Act III (31 B.C.-7th cent. A.D.).

1. The second rally (final experiment in federation – compromise between city-state autonomy and capitalistic centralization), 31 B.C.-A.D. 180.

2. The first dissolution (external front broken by tribesmen, internal by Christianity), A.D. 180-284.

3. The final rally (Constantine τὸν δῆμον προσεταιρίζει – tribesmen on to the land, bishops into the bureaucracy), A.D. 284-378.

4. The final dissolution (break of tradition), A.D. 378-7th cent.

This scenario, with its conscious anachronisms, might have been scribbled on the back of an envelope. Some of it is questionable on the surface.

In the language of the Study, which postdates this article (the first three volumes appeared in 1934), the Roman Empire provided Greek civilisation with its “Universal State” and saved it, at a price. Greek civilisation had begun to decline before the end of the fifth century BC. The Peloponnesian War was the first in its “Time of Troubles”, which lasted for four hundred years.

The agents of the transformation of the Hellenic Universal State, so that Greek-Roman civilisation became “apparented” to an entirely new civilisation – or rather to two civilisations, the “Western Society” and the “Orthodox Christian Society” – were an “internal proletariat” (Christians) and an “external proletariat” (barbarians).

Toynbee had made only a “first essay” in planning the Study by the time he wrote the 1921 essay, but the essay begins to point towards ideas in the Study (and it mentions the idea of “rallies” during a decline). The shape, the plot, of Hellenic civilisation was already clear to him.

It is difficult for a non-classicist, who looks at events rather than culture, to think of the Hellenic Society as a unity in the way that Toynbee did. If he/she did he would probably speak of a breakdown in the early centuries CE, not in the fifth century BC. Wasn’t Toynbee’s view also something to do with an inherited Victorian tendency to denigrate post-Alexandrine Greek things? With the “saddened Whig” school? Toynbee was a student of Byzantium too, but that was an “affiliated” civilisation.

The impress on Toynbee’s mind made by his idea of the shape or plot of Hellenic civilisation was so deep that it led him to develop ideas about how other civilisations rose and fell that were perhaps indefensible.

On Greek leagues, see this post and comment(s).

“Destruction of four great powers by one”: the Carthaginian, Seleucid (Battle of Magnesia) and Antigonid by the Roman. What was the fourth? Surely the Ptolemies survived intact in 146 BC. But, of course, he does mean the Ptolemies. From the ninth volume of the Study:

By 168 B.C. this one new Power [Rome] was also the only survivor among the five Powers that had been in the arena in 266 B.C. Of the four Powers that had enjoyed the advantage of standing on old foundations, Carthage, the Seleucid Monarchy, and Macedon had been felled to the ground by Roman blows in the years 201, 190, and 168, while Ptolemaic Egypt had been reduced to the status of a Roman protectorate when Roman diplomatic intervention had saved her in 170 B.C. from being annexed by Rome’s defeated Seleucid adversary.

On some of which see Hannibal’s Legacy, The Hannibalic War’s Effects on Roman Life, Vol I: Rome and Her Neighbours before Hannibal’s Entry and Vol II: Rome and Her Neighbours after Hannibal’s Exit, OUP, 1965.

Carthage, in Toynbee’s classification, was part of the Syriac Society. Why do we always speak of Seleucids, but only sometimes of Antigonids, and still less often of Lagids?

τὸυ δῆμου προσεταιρίζει means something like “bringing the people over to his side”. He is thinking of compromises with Germanic tribesmen and with Christians. I don’t know where the phrase comes from, but “people”, demos, is presumably intended here to mean something similar to “proletariat” in the sense in which he uses that term in the Study.

Returning to the main passage, he has given us his three-act synopsis and goes on:

This analysis is and must be subjective. Every one has to make his own, just as every one has to apprehend for himself the form of a work of art. But however the historian may analyse the plot and group it into acts, it must be borne in mind that the action is continuous, and that the first emergence of the Greek city-state in the Aegean and the last traces of municipal self-government in the Roman Empire are phases in the history of a single civilization. It may seem a paradox to call this civilization a unity. But the study of Greek and Latin literature leaves no doubt in one’s mind that the difference of language there is less significant than the unity of form, and that one is really dealing with a single literature, the Hellenic, which in many of its branches was imitated and propagated in the Latin language, just as it was to a lesser extent in Hebrew, or later on in Syriac and Arabic. The unity is even more apparent when, instead of confining our attention to literature, we regard the whole field of civilization. It is not really possible to draw a distinction between Greek history and Roman history. At most one can say that at some point Greek history enters on a phase which it may be convenient to distinguish verbally by connecting it with the name of Rome. To take the case of the Roman Empire – the reader may possibly have been surprised to find the Roman Empire treated as the third act in the tragedy of Greece; yet when one studies the Empire one finds that it was essentially a Greek institution. Institutionally it was at bottom a federation of city-states, a solution of the political problem with which Greek society had been wrestling since the fifth century B.C. And even the non-municipal element, the centralized bureaucratic organization which Augustus spread like a fine, almost impalpable net to hold his federation of municipalities together, was largely a fruit of Greek administrative experience. As papyrology reveals the administrative system of the Ptolemaic Dynasty – the Greek successors of Alexander who preceded the Caesars in the government of Egypt – we are learning that even those institutions of the Empire which have been regarded as most un-Greek may have been borrowed through a Greek intermediary.

Imperial jurisprudence, again, interpreted Roman municipal law into the law of a civilization by reading into it the principles of Greek moral philosophy. And Greek, not Latin, was still the language in which most of the greatest literature of the Imperial period was written. One need only mention works which are still widely read and which have influenced our own civilization – Plutarch’s Lives, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and the New Testament. They are all written in Greek, and who will venture to assert that the age in which they were written falls outside Greek history, or that the social experience which produced them was not an act in the tragedy of Hellenic civilization? Even statistically the Empire was more Greek than anything else. Probably a considerable majority of its inhabitants spoke Greek as a lingua franca, if not as their mother-tongue. Nearly all the great industrial and commercial centres were in the Greek or Hellenized provinces. Possibly, during the first two centuries of the Empire, more Greek was spoken than Latin by the proletariat of Rome itself. The Greek core of the Roman Empire played the part of Western Europe in the modern world. The Latinized provinces were thinly populated, backward, and only superficially initiated into the fraternity of civilization. Latinized Spain and Africa were the South America, Latinized Gaul and Britain the Russia of the Ancient Greek world. The pulse of the Empire was driven by a Greek heart, and it beat comparatively feebly in the non-Greek extremities.


The Plot of Ancient Greek Civilization (the passage is given here in full), sub-section in chapter called History contributed by Toynbee to RW Livingstone, editor, The Legacy of Greece, Essays by Gilbert Murray, W. R. Inge, J. Burnet, Sir T. L. Heath, D’Arcy W. Thompson, Charles Singer, R. W. Livingstone, A. Toynbee, A. E. Zimmern, Percy Gardner, Sir Reginald Blomfield, OUP (Oxford at the Clarendon Press), 1921

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

The Oxford Legacy series were collections of essays published by Oxford between the ’20s and the ’60s in sub-octavo volumes with the binding of the Clarendon Press. There were volumes on China, Egypt, Greece, India, Islam, Israel, the Middle Ages, Persia and Rome. Some of them stayed in print for decades.

Arabs in the Ottoman Empire 2

July 18 2009

Arabs in the Ottoman Empire (the first post in this blog)

But more especially, see the last post.

The forcible unification of the Arabic Society with the Sunnī fraction of the sister Iranic Society through the external act of the Ottoman conquest did not ever pass over into an inward social fusion; and the unitary Islamic Society which has confronted the modern Western World, and which has made such an imposing impression of unity on our Western minds, has always been something of an illusion. At heart the Arabs and the ʿOsmanlis have remained strangers to one another; and, in so far as there has been any genuine cultural give-and-take, it has been the conquered Arab that has taken the Ottoman conqueror captive.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

The Syriac society

July 18 2009

I’ll reproduce and slightly elaborate a comment I placed under my review of Parag Khanna’s The Second World and file it in the Study of History category.

The “Syriac” society lasted, with a long Greek interregnum, until the great days of the Arab Caliphate. It had itself been loosely affiliated to the Minoan.

After a period of Turkish and Mongol invasions, it split into its “Iranic” (which does not merely mean Persian, but rather Perso-Turkish) and Arabic parts.

The modern Islamic society, which Toynbee dates from c 1516, is affiliated to its “Iranic” and Arabic predecessors and to its “Syriac” predecessor, but there never was a relationship of affiliation or apparentation between “Persian” and “Arab” societies, nor between either of these and Indian.

These are some of the most intractably difficult, and questionable, concepts in Toynbee’s work.

What Khanna says about Greece, Rome and the “renaissance of Hellenism in Italy” is clearer, but false. The moment of apparentation of the modern Western society to the Hellenic occurred before AD 700, not at the “renaissance”. Nor was Rome affiliated to Greece in Toynbee’s system.

A pose of empiricism

July 17 2009

A well-balanced judgment by William McNeill in Toynbee’s A Study of History, in his Mythistory and Other Essays, University of Chicago Press, 1986. Many others had made the same points.

“Toynbee likes to call himself an empiricist, and repeatedly describes his procedure in seeking illustrations for some general proposition as an ‘empirical survey’. [AJP Taylor preferred the phrase “lucky dip”.] Yet it seems to me that his use of this word is distinctly misleading. For his ‘empiricism’ is an empiricism which is already keenly aware of what it is seeking; and in such a difficult and multifarious study as history, it is all too easy to find evidence to ‘prove’ almost any proposition. The reason is simple. The potential data of history are limitless, and by selecting for attention only those bits and pieces that fit in with one’s notions, a convincing ‘empirical’ validation of the preconception with which one started out may often, if not always, be achieved. Yet this is the procedure by which Toynbee again and again seeks to prove or justify his generalizations. It follows, I think, that whatever value they may have – and in my opinion many of them have a great value – does not rest upon the empirical surveys of which he seems so fond.

“Indeed, Toynbee’s self-proclaimed empiricism seems to me largely a pose, adopted originally, perhaps, partly in an effort to distinguish his thought from Spengler’s; and one which has been largely abandoned in his later volumes. Rather, the heart of Toynbee’s intellectual procedure has always been the sudden flash of insight such as that which, on his own account, launched him originally on A Study of History. The experience of suddenly seeing some new relationship or pattern emerging from a confusion of elements previously unrelated is one which I presume all thinking men experience from time to time; and such experiences often carry with them a considerable emotional force which almost compels assent even before the details and implications of the new insight have been tidily arranged and worked out. Such I conceive to have been the method by which Toynbee worked his way through history; and being endowed by nature with an unusually powerful memory and an even more powerful imagination, his flashes of original insight have been numerous and far ranging.”

Spoilt children and whipping-boys

May 14 2009

Toynbee remembered

the atmosphere of animosity against Islam and against the Turks in which I had grown up.

Gladstone on the Bulgarian atrocities:

“Let the Turks now carry away their abuses, in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and Yuzbashis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province that they have desolated and profaned.”

Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East, John Murray, 1876. Bulgaria was re-established two years later.

Toynbee’s 1917 pamphlet “The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks” (too short to be shown in the bibliography here) was the descendant of Gladstone’s.

During the First World War Toynbee had written anti-Turkish propaganda for the Foreign Office. In 1921, while Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine Language, Literature and History at King’s College, London, he had travelled to the Near East for the Manchester Guardian to report on the Greco-Turkish War. His new-found sympathy for the Turks cost him his professorship. See Richard Clogg, Politics and the Academy, Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, Routledge, 2004. We have seen that happen in our own time with wrongly-applied sympathy in Arab-Israeli matters.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey (1922) rehearses certain ideas which are developed on a large scale in A Study of History. This book is, among other things, about Western foreign policy as a cultural distorting lens and about the effects of inconsistent policy on people who are affected by it. The ambiguous passage below, in a very complex book, seems to me to anticipate modern ideas about, inter alia, Orientalism and “objectification”. Toynbee’s “Western Question” is a deliberately ironic reversal of the “Eastern Question” of British foreign policy. The “Question” is dated to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-74 and the beginning of Turkey’s status as the “sick man of Europe”. The phrase dates from the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, when much Western sentiment attached itself to the Greeks. The phrase “sick man of Europe” is, rightly or wrongly, attributed to Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55).

A working-man often makes allowances for an acquaintance who is a gentleman, and a gentleman for a working-man, which they would not either of them make readily for individuals of their respective species, or even for a shopkeeper. This well-known psychological fact has not been without benefit to the Turk. When a Westerner meets a Turk (whether it be an unsophisticated peasant or a Western-educated doctor, official or officer), he finds himself in contact with an individual who has traditions, standards, manners, and a soul of his own. Social relations with him are straightforward and full of interest. They possess all the charm and vividness of intercourse with a live human being, with a minimum of those moral commitments which ordinarily follow. The western traveller takes the same aesthetic enjoyment in his live Turk as in the fictitious personalities of a novel or a play, or as in the ghosts of a dead civilisation. The author, and every reader after him, of Paradise Lost can idealise and sympathise with Satan in the imaginary world of that poem, without having to feel the disapproval obligatory when much less serious offences are committed in this world by sons of Adam. Scholars, too, can take delight in the poetry of Aeschylus, the heroism of Leonidas, and all the glories of Ancient Hellenic civilisation, without being unduly distressed by the paederasty and infanticide which co-existed with them. In the same way, a Westerner who has once made friends with a Turk will shake hands with him again, next time he visits Turkey, without embarrassment, however red the hands of other Turks may have been stained, since his last visit, by massacre. Without his being aware of it, the conventional picture of the “blood-stained Turk,” with which he has been familiarised since infancy, has made him proof against being shocked by the reality. This feature in the personal relationship between Westerners and Turks, on its present footing, is as undesirable as that noted above in the case of Westerners and Greeks; but it has the same psychological origins, and neither feature will disappear until the “complex” of prejudice in Western minds has been removed.

It is imperative to remove it, for unwarrantable prejudice and unwarrantable indulgence do not in this case counterbalance one another. When you have made a spoilt-child of the Greek, it is no good rounding on him as an impostor; and when you have used the Turk as a whipping-boy, you do not heal the stripes that you have inflicted by congratulating him on his fortitude. Unnatural treatment is made doubly harmful by inconsistency in its application […].

The shadow of the West

Acquaintances, OUP, 1967

“The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks”, with a Preface by Viscount Bryce, Hodder & Soughton, 1917

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

Toynbee and the Outline

March 30 2009

A few posts ago I asked why Wells’s Outline of History had made such an impact, when to us it looks like very basic and amateurish history indeed, even when lit by a certain Wellsian charm. I suggested answers, and there is another. Its early chapters appealed to, charmed, as popular science, an educated public still vastly ignorant of science. Toynbee in Volume XII of the Study, Reconsiderations:

I am ruefully aware that my classical education has left me almost entirely ignorant of modern Western discoveries, from the seventeenth century onwards, in the fields of mathematics and physical science.

Even Chesterton said that he had enjoyed the early scientific chapters. Forster (op cit): “The rocks bubbled and the sea smoked. Presently there was an inter-tidal scum: it was life, trying to move out of the warm water … .” They were the Outline’s Genesis. Toynbee quotes from them in Volume IV. To us, they are the most dated part of Wells’s book.

Toynbee quotes other scientific popularisers from time to time, including Julian Huxley and (especially dated now) James Jeans. Now, “popular science” is as big as popular history. The “Popular Science” section (that was still its old-fashioned name) at a shop (WH Smith?) in Gatwick airport in late 2008 was as large as, or larger than, a large history section.

Volume X:

H. G. Wells in The Outline of History has written an epic poem on the theme “Man Makes Himself” which is explicit in the title of a subsequent book from the pen of an eminent Western archaeologist of the next generation. [Footnote: Childe, V. Gordon: Man Makes Himself (London 1936, Watts).] [One of the most popular works on archaeology in English in the second third of the twentieth century.] This bleak assertion is a post-Christian Western Man’s defiant answer to the Psalmist’s joyful assurance that “the Lord He is God” and that “we are His People and the sheep of His pasture” because “it is He that hath made us and not we ourselves”; [footnote: Psalm c. 2.] […].

Volume III has a more extended passage, notable for a courtliness present in reviewing between the wars and often absent in the ’50s. The old courteous style, with its less respectable sibling deference, disappeared altogether in the ’60s.

Etherialization [becoming lighter, freer, more autonomous] has come to our notice as a concomitant of growth; and our illustrations of the phenomenon make it clear that the criterion of growth, for which we are in search, and which we have failed to discover in the progressive and cumulative conquest of the external environment, either human or physical, lies rather in a progressive change of emphasis and transfer of energy and shifting of the scene of action out of this field into another field in which – as we have noted already in passing – the action of Challenge-and-Response may find an alternative arena. In this other field, challenges do not impinge from outside but arise from within, and victorious responses to challenges do not take the form of surmounting an external obstacle or overcoming an external adversary but manifest themselves, instead, in an inward self-articulation or self-determination. When we watch an individual human being or a human society making successive responses to a succession of challenges, and when we ask ourselves the question whether this particular series of responses to challenges is to be interpreted as a manifestation of growth, we shall arrive at the answer to our question through observing whether, as the series proceeds, the action does or does not tend to shift from the first to the second of the two fields aforesaid. The presence or absence of this tendency gives us our criterion for the presence or absence of growth; and we may add that it is always a tendency that is in question; for, if we look narrowly, we shall find it impossible to cite a case of Challenge-and-Response in which the entire action takes place on either the one or the other of our two fields exclusively. Even in those responses which look like sheer conquests of an external environment at first sight, an element of inward self-determination can always be detected as well and, conversely, there is always some residue of action in the external area, even when the shifting of the scene of action to the internal arena has been carried as far as it will go. The action is never fought solely on one single field in any of those successive bouts of Challenge-and-Response in which the victorious responses accumulate into growths. At the same time, if growth is being achieved, this implies that, in each successive bout, the action on the external field is counting for less, and the action on the internal field for more, in deciding the issue between victory and defeat.

This truth comes out very clearly in those presentations of history in which the attempt is made to describe processes of growth exclusively in terms of the external field from start to finish. Let us take as examples two outstanding presentations in these terms which are each the work of a man of genius: Monsieur Edmond DemolinsComment la Route Crée le Type Social, [footnote: Demolins, E.: Comment la Route Crée le Type Social. (Paris, no date, Firmin-Didot, 2. vols.)] and The Outline of History [footnote: Wells, H. G.: The Outline of History (London 1920, Cassell).] which has been written by Mr. H. G. Wells.

He is almost certainly being too polite to Demolins, one of whose works (1897) was called À quoi tient la supériorité des Anglo-Saxons? The “race or environment” theorising against which he felt it necessary to argue (and for which there were classical precedents) was crude, mainstream and pretentious in 1934. These engagements would make some of his work, in turn, look quaint and dated to the next generation.

The environmentalist thesis is set out by Monsieur Demolins in his preface [footnote: Demolins, op. cit., vol i, p. vii.] with uncompromising terseness:

“II existe à la surface du globe terrestre une infinie variété de populations; quelle est la cause qui a créé cette variété? … La cause première et décisive de la diversité des races, c’est la route que les peuples ont suivie. C’est la route qui crée la race et qui crée le type social.”

When this provocative manifesto fulfils its purpose by stimulating us to read the substance of the book in which the author’s thesis is worked out, we find that he manages quite well so long as he is drawing his illustrations from the life of societies which have remained on the primitive level. In such cases, the state of society can be explained with approximate accuracy and completeness in terms of responses to challenges from the external environment exclusively; but this, of course, is not an explanation of growth, since these primitive societies are now static. Monsieur Demolins is equally successful in explaining the state of the arrested civilizations. He has done a brilliant piece of work in his chapter on the Eurasian Nomads. But conditions are static here again; and this chapter, which comes first in the book, is also an acme, with all the rest of the book for its anti-climax. When the author applies his formula to patriarchal village communities, the reader begins to be uneasy. The explanation seems too plausible, the course too much plain sailing. In the chapters on Carthage and Venice, one feels sure that he has left something out, without being able quite to say what this omission may be. When he seeks to explain the Pythagorean philosophy in terms of a portage-trade across the Toe of Italy, one feels tempted to smile, but checks oneself in deference to Monsieur Demolins’ impressive ability and disarming enthusiasm. But the chapter entitled “La Route des Plateaux – Les Types Albanais et Hellène” pulls one up short. Albanian Barbarism and Hellenic Civilization to be unhesitatingly bracketed together, just because their respective exponents happen to have arrived once upon a time at their respective geographical destinations by way of the same terrain! And the great human adventure and human experience which we know as Hellenism to be reduced to a kind of epiphenomenal by-product of the Balkan plateaux! In this unlucky chapter, the argument of Comment la Route Crée le Type Social confutes itself by a palpable reductio ad absurdum. When a civilization goes so far in its growth as the Hellenic Civilization went before it suffered breakdown, an attempt to describe its growth exclusively in terms of responses to challenges from the external environment becomes positively ridiculous.

Mr. Wells, again, seems to lose his sureness of touch when he handles something mature instead of handling something primitive. He is in his element when he is exercising his imaginative powers in order to reconstruct some dramatic episode in some remote æon of Geological Time. His story of how “these little theriomorphs, these ancestral mammals”, survived when the overgrown reptiles went under is almost worthy to rank with the Biblical saga of David and Goliath, and in its own vein it is inimitable. As we read the passage, [footnote: Wells, op. cit., pp. 22-4. […]] we look forward eagerly to coming chapters, in which this brilliant mind is to play upon the famous events of human history; but we are destined to experience a certain disappointment. When the little theriomorphs turn into Palaeolithic Hunters or Eurasian Nomads, Mr. Wells, like Monsieur Demolins, still comes up to our expectations; and he does passably well when some individual theriomorph, here and there, develops the personality of a Ts’in She Hwangti [how the English accent comes through in these Wade-Giles or pre-Wade-Giles Romanisations!], or even the personality of a Nabonidus. But he comes to grief in the recent annals of our own Western history when he has to size up that singularly etherialized theriomorph William Ewart Gladstone. In appreciating – or failing to appreciate – Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Wells has allowed his judgement to be perverted by conscious prejudice and – still graver intellectual crime – by involuntary obtuseness. No doubt, in Mr. Wells’s own mind, his passing references to Mr. Gladstone, whether felicitous or not, are only a niggling detail in the great sweep of his historical panorama; and yet, in a sense, they are a touchstone for trying the quality of the whole monumental work. For, in handling Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Wells is handling a great man of his own culture and his own country and his own century; and, to an author with Mr. Wells’s imaginative gift, such a subject offers an opportunity of apprehending human character, not by a mere description and classification and docketing of the outer man, but by an intuitive sympathy of one soul with another. Mr. Wells has failed to rise to the occasion here because he has failed to transfer his spiritual treasure, as his narrative proceeds, from the Macrocosm to the Microcosm; and this failure reveals the limitations of the magnificent intellectual achievement which The Outline of History represents. [Footnote: This criticism of The Outline of History is made with all respect, in the belief that frankness in criticism is the best evidence of sincerity in appreciation. For a positive appreciation of Mr. Wells’s achievement as an historian, see [a passage I am about to quote from Volume I].]

Forster (op cit) says something about Wells’s difficulty in portraying real human beings in the Outline. “The outlines are as clear as ever, but they are not the outlines of living men. He seldom has created a character who lives (Kipps and the aunt in Tono-Bungay are the main exceptions).”

“And what is it all about, anyhow? What is the meaning of this evolution from igneous gas, through scum and Christianity, to ourselves and mustard gas?” The answer he attributes: progress through, if we have enough of it, science.

Volume I has this. It comes soon after a passage on Mommsen that I have already quoted and describes exactly the destiny which awaited Toynbee himself, not so much in the way the first six volumes were received before the Second World War as in the destructive criticism which he would meet after it.

Mr. H. G. Wells’s The Outline of History was received with unmistakable hostility by a number of historical specialists. They criticized severely the errors which they discovered at the points where the writer, in his long journey through Time and Space, happened to traverse their tiny allotments. They seemed not to realize that, in re-living the entire life of Mankind as a single imaginative experience, Mr. Wells was achieving something which they themselves would hardly have dared to attempt – something, perhaps, of which they had never conceived the possibility. In fact, the purpose and value of Mr. Wells’s book seem to have been better appreciated by the general public than by the professional historians of the day.

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934

A macédoine

February 6 2009

Unkind critics might apply that word to A Study of History and this blog. How the English applied civil law in India.

The civil province of law can be divided into two departments, one concerned with what, in laymen’s language, may be described as the “business relations” between private individuals, and the other with what, in the language of the art, is known as “personal statute”. “Business relations” are a broad field in which the pocket is touched without deeply affecting the heart; “personal statute” is a relatively narrow field, but it touches the quick, for its agenda are the intimacies of social life – marriage, wills, inheritance, wardship, and the like. The Osmanlis, as we have seen, consigned both these departments of the civil province of law to be dealt with in the separate communal courts of the Muslim community and of the non-Muslim millets of the Ottoman Empire in accordance with their respective communal laws. In the derelict domain of a defunct Mughal Empire in India, the British found a macédoine of religions, cultures, and peoples closely resembling the contemporary hotch-potch in the Ottoman dominions, but they worked out a different solution for a similar problem. They gave jurisdiction over the whole field to their own newly instituted British Indian courts, but, in prescribing the law that was to be applied in these courts, they confined the application of the English “Common Law” and its British Indian derivatives to the department of “business relations”, and laid down that cases concerning “personal statute” should continue to be governed by the communal law of the parties. [Footnote: This was done, not by drawing up any general definition of the field covered by “personal statute”, but by enumerating in each case the subjects in respect of which the existing communal law of the parties was to be applied in the British Indian courts. The area of the field was different in different cases. The legal institution enabling an owner of property, by making a will which, if valid, is recognized and made enforceable by the law, to determine during his lifetime how his property shall be disposed of after his death, was a feature of Islamic Law, as it was of Western Law, but was unknown to Hindu Law. As a consequence of this historical fact, the testamentary province of personal law came, for Hindus, to fall within the field of the English “Common Law” or its British Indian derivatives, while for British Indian Muslims it continued to be administered in accordance with the Sharī‘ah.]

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

The argument

September 3 2008

I linked to the full contents the of A Study of History, the first time they had been presented in one place, here.

Here I linked in the same way to the contents of the two abridgements. DC Somervell, the first abridger, also presents an Argument, too long for easy posting. This is “an abridgement of an abridgement” at the end of each of his volumes (1946 and 1957).

Toynbee summarised his ideas in several places, but he also offers an argument, shorter than Somervell’s, in the introductory paragraphs to the eleven Parts of the second abridgement (1972), which he made in collaboration with Jane Caplan.

Here are those paragraphs. I’ll number them. They also have never been presented together until now. They are not as clear or pointed as they could be. I am sure the words are more Caplan’s than Toynbee’s. They are a summary of an abridgement and final rethinking, not of the original work (1934-61), but the outlines of the original work are there.

I have just written on the About page: “His fiercest post-war critics were judging the whole, or large parts, and the further away you stand from this canvas, the harsher your judgment is likely to be.” I said that because the charm of the Study is in the foreground detail, where this blog usually wanders. If you stand as far back as we are about to now, there is also not much to object to prima facie. There is not enough to go on. The problems come when we look more closely and systematically at the whole work and its methods, as the post-war critics did.

Paul Johnson: “Toynbee often reminds me of Herbert Spencer, erecting an enormous centotaph of industry and erudition on a tiny plinth of common sense.” (The Times, July 15 1976.)

I. I begin my Study by searching for a unit of historical study that is relatively self-contained and is therefore more or less intelligible in isolation from the rest of history. I reject the present-day habit of studying history in terms of national states; these seem to be fragments of something larger: a civilization. In so far as Man needs to classify information before interpreting it, this large-scale unit seems to me to be less distorting than a smaller scale. After defining my unit, and looking at pre-civilizational societies, I try to establish a “model” for histories of civilization, taking my cue from the course of Hellenic, Chinese, and Jewish history. By combining their principal features, I propose a composite model which seems to fit the histories of most of the civilizations we know. I conclude by assembling a list of civilizations past and present.

II. Having rounded up my horses, I now set myself to put them through their paces. What is it that brings a civilization to birth? I first try race and then environment, and I find both these explanations unsatisfying, because they assume that living beings are subject to inexorable laws of Nature, like dead matter. So I look for an explanation in terms of life, which in human affairs means free will. I find this

in the insights of mythology and religion, which show creation as the outcome of an encounter – a process that I shall describe as challenge-and-response. I then try to discover the limits within which the interplay of challenge-and-response is effectively creative in practice. I do this by examining a number of test cases, and I find that, although a strong stimulus is needed to bring a civilization into existence, the challenge must not be so severe as to stifle creativity.

Testing and rejecting theories of race made Toynbee seem dated in 1972. He was still referring to ideas which he had had no choice but to examine in 1934.

III. A civilization that has successfully come to birth has surmounted the first and highest hurdle, but will it then automatically go on from strength to strength? The evidence of some societies whose growth has been arrested after birth suggests that this does not always happen, and so I am led on to investigate the nature of growth itself. A society continues in growth, it seems, when a successful response to a challenge provokes a fresh challenge in its turn, converting a single movement into a series. I am then driven to ask whether the successive steps in this sequence of challenge-and-response lead in some direction. The notion of inevitable progress towards a predictable goal seems to me to be inappropriate in the human sphere, but I find that in a general way the growth of a society can be measured in terms of the increasing power of self-determination won by the society’s leaders; and I believe that the future fate of a civilization lies in the hands of this minority of creative persons.

IV. Why have some civilizations broken down in the past? I do not believe that civilizations are fated to break down, so I begin by exposing the fallacious arguments of the determinists. Having rejected determinist explanations, I look for an alternative. I find, first, that the very process by which growth is sustained is inherently risky: the creative leadership of a society has to resort to social “drill” in order to carry along the uncreative mass, and this mechanical device turns against its masters when their creative inspiration fails. I then have to account for the failure of creativity, and I ascribe it to the spiritual demoralization to which we human beings seem to be prone on the morrow of great achievments – a demoralization to which we are not bound to succumb, and for which we ourselves bear the responsibility. Success seems to make us lazy or self-satisfied or conceited. I muster a series of notable historical examples to show how this actually happens and how human beings have erred in each case.

V. Breakdowns are not inevitable and not irretrievable; but, if the process of process of disintegration is allowed to continue, I find that it seems to follow a common pattern in most instances. The masses become estranged from their leaders, who then try to cling to their position by using force as a substitute for their lost power of attraction. I trace the fragmentation of society into a dominant minority, an internal proletariat, and an external proletariat consisting of the barbarians on its fringes; and I sketch the social reactions of these diverse groups to the ordeal of disintegration. I also find a corresponding social schism in the souls of people who happen to have been born into this unhappy age. Discordant psychic tendencies which are perhaps always latent in human nature now find free play. People lose their bearings, and rush down blind alleys, seeking escape. Greater souls detach themselves from life; still greater souls try to transfigure life higher than mere life as we know it on Earth, and sow the seeds of a fresh spiritual advance.

VI. When a society is in disintegration, each of the three factions [dominant minority, internal proletariat, external proletariat] into which it splits produces an institution. The dominant minority tries to preserve its threatened power by uniting the warring states into a universal state. I use this name because these empires, though not literally worldwide, embrace the whole territory of a single civilization.

This is unclear. What are the three institutions? The dominant minority creates a universal state. The internal proletariat nurtures a religion. What is the institution of the external proletariat?

But universal states have sometimes been the work of alien empire-builders, just as the higher religions and the barbarian cultures have been alien in inspiration, and these facts lead me to re-examine my proposition that a civilization is self-contained and is therefore an intelligible field of study. I begin by asking whether universal states are ends in themselves [in some meta-historical sense] or means to something beyond them. By looking at some of their institutions, I discover that they unintentionally benefit both the higher religions and the barbarians, though it is the religions that profit most.

This is Toynbee’s idea of the universal state as the chrysalis of a higher religion. He then goes on to to his idea of a future “world state”.

At the same time, although the historical universal states have so far always been local and ephemeral, they seem to be foretastes of a future régime in which the whole of Mankind will live in political unity, and so I conclude by assessing the prospects for this.

Paul Johnson, op cit, calls Toynbee “Early League of Nations Man”. There is some justification in that, though Toynbee had been sceptical of the League of Nations as conceived by Woodrow Wilson.

According to some of his critics, such as Geyl, his and others’ longing for, or expectation of, world government had a dark side: defeatism about Western civilization.

Trevor-Roper thought that it was latently fascist (Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Prophet, New York Review of Books, New York, October 12 1989). On top of this, he thought that Toynbee was exalting himself personally as a prophet. He confused Toynbee with cranks and faddists of the 1930s.

It was, in truth, a sign of two things: his lasting reaction against the “idolatrous” worship of “parochial” national states which had led to the “fratricidal” First World War; and his idealism: if humanity is to aspire to being a communion of saints, then excessive reverence of mundane institutions must anyway fall away.

These tendencies were at the root of his dislike of Jewish tribal and Zionist pretensions, which were interpreted as anti-semitic.

Why humanity would be freer from the worship of an institution merely because it was a world-institution is not clear. And how would a world government be set up?

Communion of saints vs dictatorship of proletariat.

VII. The emergence of the higher religions seems to me to mark so important a new departure in human history that these cannot be dealt with adequately in terms of the civilizations whose declines and falls give rise to them. I try to show that they are not parasites on dying civilizations, nor do they simply serve as chrysalises of new civilizations. On the contrary, I believe that the higher religions are themselves societies of a new and distinctive species; their purpose is to enable men to find a direct personal relation with the transcendent reality in and behind and beyond the Universe, though so far they have fallen short of their spiritual aspirations.

The universal state is the chrysalis of a higher religion.

Most of the religions have achieved the essential step of disengaging themselves from the restrictive matrix of the civilizations in which they came to birth, and have addressed themselves to the whole of Mankind; but some have been betrayed by their institutionalization into becoming rigid in structure and intolerant in outlook. Religions have obviously played an important role in history, but I still have to ask myself what religion is. People have always had something that they call religion, but is the object of their belief real or illusory? I am convinced that it is real, and, although I know that my conviction is partly an unprovable act of faith, I also try to show that only the postulate of a supra-human reality will make some proven human feelings comprehensible to us.

VIII. I believe that civilizations have always been brought to grief by their own faults and failures, and not by any external agency [even in America]; but after a society has dealt itself the fatal blow and is on the point of dissolution, it is usually overrun and finally liquidated by barbarians from beyond its frontiers. The crystallization of a universal state’s frontiers seems to be the crucial event, for this cuts the barbarians off from peaceful social contact and pens them up until the moment comes for their destructive descent. I describe how this barbarian pressure builds up, and I show that the barbarians possess an ever-increasing advantage over the embattled civilization, so that their ultimate victory is inevitable. On the desolated homelands of the former civilization, the barbarians enjoy a brief “heroic age”; but, unlike the higher religions, these ages open no new chapter in the history of civilization. The barbarians are the brooms which sweep the historical stage clear of the débris of a dead civilization; this destructive feat is their historic task, and it has been glorified, to the point of becoming almost unrecognizable, in their myths and poetry.

IX. If it is admitted that single civilizations are not always intelligible fields of study, it seems logical now to look more closely at encounters between civilizations. I want to find out what happens when two civilizations that are contemporaries are brought into close cultural contact, usually when one of them is in the process of disintegration. This type of encounter seems particularly important, because most of the higher religions have arisen in places where several religions have intermingled. I first have to establish the facts about encounters, and, with these facts at my command, I examine the effects, which are disturbing and often alarming. I find that “aggressive” civilizations tend to stigmatize their victims as inferior, in culture, religion, or race; the assaulted party reacts either by trying to force itself into line with the alien culture, or by adopting an exaggeratedly defensive posture. Both reactions seem to me ill-advised. Encounters evoke terrible animosities and create enormous problems of coexistence, but I think that the only positive solution is for both parties consciously to attempt a mutual adjustment. This is how the higher religions have answered the problem, and in our present-day world it is imperative that different cultures should not face each other in hostile competition, but should seek to share their experience as they already share a common humanity.

X. Encounters between contemporary civilizations are not the only way in which one civilization comes into contact with another. A living civilization has an encounter with an extinct one when it brings this back to life in a renaissance. I do not think that this term should be confined to “the” renaissance of Hellenism in Italy: renaissances have been quite common in many other societies, and have also occurred in other aspects of life than those resuscitated in late medieval and early modern Italy. Many people appear to look upon this Italian renaissance as a marvellous cultural rebirth, but I think that a ghost is intrinsically less valuable than a living being. [Surely an utterly false distinction in this and many other cases.] I try to make this point clear by reviewing some examples of these artificial revivals of institutions, ideas, and arts, and I find that the native genius of a civilization is liable to be stifled if the society comes to accept the revival of the old as a sufficient substitute for fresh creative departures.

XI. My study of history would be incomplete if, after having surveyed the process of history, I failed to ask myself what history is and how an account of it comes to be written. I do not think that history, in the objective sense of the word, is a succession of facts, nor history-writing the narration of these facts. Historians, like all human observers, have to make reality comprehensible, and this involves them in continuous judgments about what is true and what is significant. This requires classification, and the study of the facts has to be synoptic and comparative, since the succession of facts flows in a number of simultaneous streams. Historians who accept the full implications of their task are in danger of erecting deterministic explanations, but I do not think that this need be so. I believe that human beings are free to make choices within the limitations of their human capacity. I also believe that history shows us how men may learn to make choices that are not only free but effective by learning to achieve harmony with a supra-human reality that makes itself felt though it is impalpable. A curiosity to explain and understand the world is the stimulus that has excited men to study their past, so I conclude by looking at some of the impulses that have moved individual historians to embark on their work of discovery and explanation.

With Jane Caplan, A Study of History, new one-volume abridgement, with new material and revisions and, for the first time, illustrations, and with a Foreword by Toynbee, Thames & Hudson, 1972