Archive for the 'Autobiography/biography' Category

From Delos

August 12 2015

“It is marvellous expanding one’s comprehension like this – it gives one’s ‘historical imagination’ real strong meat to crunch. Pompeii may be more perfectly preserved – but that is a shoddy watering place of the first century A.D. – while the place I am in now was the chief mart of the world for a century: here one is at the centre of things (even if there are boats to Mykonos only twice a week).”

The tiny Cycladic island was the meeting place of the Delian League, the Athens-dominated union against Persia, 478-404.

But the century to which Toynbee is referring must be from 166 BC, when the Romans made Delos into a free port in order to punish Rhodes, to 69, when it was sacked by pirates. Delos is now almost uninhabited, but then supported a population of 30,000: Greeks, Italians, Phoenicians, Syrians, Egyptians, Palestinians, Jews and Persians who came to trade without risk to life or property.

Letter to his mother, December 6 1911, quoted in McNeill

Late quartets

August 11 2015

Greece was the centre of Toynbee’s intellectual world, but he was 70 when he published his first book on it, 80 when he published a second.

Greek quartet:

Hellenism, The History of a Civilization, OUP, Home University Library, 1959 (short)

Some Problems of Greek History, OUP, 1969 (over 500 pages and ultra-specialised for the most part)

Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World, OUP, 1973 (nearly 800 pages)

The Greeks and Their Heritages, OUP, 1981 (nearly 400 pages, posthumous, finished in 1974 and published in the year of Greece’s EU accession)

Hellenism, of course, covers Rome too. Constantine Porphyrogenitus belongs to Byzantine, not classical, studies. The Greeks and Their Heritages takes us forward into modern times. Some Problems of Greek History is the only book entirely about ancient Greece.

His Roman book also touches on Greece:

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 (about 1,400 pages)

You could drop Hellenism as being a mere introduction and speak of a quartet of large-scale Greek or Roman works published from the age of 76, with the first book really about his main subject published at the age of 80.

Although Some Problems of Greek History is long, the description “large-scale” perhaps does not even suit such a technical and minutely specialised series of essays.

The masterpiece, by all accounts, is Hannibal’s Legacy, although its thesis (link to a good summary) is controversial. Toynbee intended it as his monument alongside A Study of History.

Constantine Porphyrogenitus is a great achievement marred by comparatively weak treatment of the Byzantine church.

Having been a backpacker in Greece for nearly a year, he should probably have produced a modern Pausanias.

Toynbee Prize Foundation

April 10 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Officers and trustees


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

William McNeillop cit, was the winner in 2008.

Chakrabarty Dipesh

Dipesh Chakrabarty, the newest recipient

Christian brigands

March 20 2015

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided the Macedonian region between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

In Macedonia, where the social peripeteia accompanying a transfer of sovereignty from the Ottoman Empire to the Kingdom of Greece had taken place ninety-one years later than in Laconia [with which he has just been concerned], the writer once had the good fortune to obtain a vivid sidelight on it from a living beneficiary. Waiting for an omnibus at Sorovich on the 4th September, 1921, he fell into conversation with a bystander who turned out to be a Slovene, born in Klagenfurt, Carinthia, who had emigrated as a boy to the United States, had come to Macedonia as a chauffeur for the American Red Cross, and was now driving a tractor in the service of three Greek brothers who were joint owners of a large estate in the neighbourhood of Sorovich, besides owning a whole block of houses just across the road from the railway station. Like the property itself, the present owners’ up-to-date Western method of farming was a legacy from their father, who had died only four months since. In answer to a question about his enterprising deceased employer’s antecedents, the Slovene mechanic volunteered: “Well, he hadn’t owned this property for very long. Before ‘the war’ [meaning the Balkan Wars of A.D. 1912-13] [Toynbee’s bracket], when the Turks owned the land, he was just one of those ‘Christians’ – what is the English word for them? … O, now I remember it: ‘brigands’ – up in the mountains. But, when the Greek Army marched in, the Turks cleared out and the brigands came down from the mountains and seized the land. So that is how my employer got his property, and how I got my job.”

There was a tradition in ancient anti-Christian polemic of referring to Christ himself as a brigand.

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

Toynbee and Indiana Jones at Versailles

March 12 2015

The image links to the full Indiana Jones episode of which I showed a clip here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 02.08.05

Background and context are in the old post. Toynbee’s big scene starts at 5:00. His other main appearances are at 26:00 and 33:00. Later the scene shifts to Princeton.

Mistakes and unconvincing portrayals aside (Lawrence is the worst, Gertrude Bell a close second), it doesn’t do such a bad job of bringing history to life. Vignettes of Arabs, Vietnamese, Germans. Woodrow Wilson is shown as comically out of his depth. Indiana is touching, trying to be nice to the Germans.

Toynbee is rather convincing. He never said that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it, but he had a sharper political mind when he was young than when he was old.

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

Toynbee at UCLA

January 24 2015

Example of the dozens of speeches and scores of articles about the necessity of World Unity in the Atomic Age given or written after his retirement from Chatham House in 1955.

The Balance Sheet of History, with young audience at UCLA. April 1 1963, while visiting professor at Grinnell College, Iowa for the second time. Unidentified first introducer hands over to Vice Chancellor, Foster H Sherwood, who introduces Toynbee.

The range of allusion one gets in his books is absent. There is nothing that he doesn’t say in other places. The tendency to repeat himself disappointed some of the US institutions which paid to have him as their guest. So did his habit (as, apparently, here) of making side trips in order to give further identical talks to other institutions.

Still, there’s a shape and theme to this. These productions came from a lifelong reaction against the nationalism which had produced the First World War, and were at the same time a response to the Cold War.

What he has to say seems quaint to a generation that has forgotten that it lives in the shadow of the Bomb, and is in the power of new currents which are bringing societies together anyway – and tearing them apart.

He blurs homo sapiens and hominids (a confusion not evident in Mankind and Mother Earth). He says that more than half of the world’s population in 2000 will be citizens of China. His Malthusianism is simplistic. The opening-up of the grasslands of the US, Canada, Argentina, Australia had postponed the food crisis (for the West, so how were others coping?), but the reckoning was now imminent. He shows no awareness of the Green Revolution.

World government would be needed to regulate the supply and distribution of food.

Population growth can be curtailed only by a revolution in human behaviour, not by administrative action. Yet it was controlled by administrative action in China in the one-child policy initiated in 1979.

Religion belongs to a deeper level of human life than politics. There’s a confused passage about different religions appealing to the different psychological types which can be found in every population. In future, he hopes that people will choose their religions, rather than being born into them.

But the identities, iconographies, traditions of religions were developed in geographically-defined communities. So how did they appeal to distinct psychological types? And what is their soil in a cosmopolitan world?

Local loyalties and larger ones. Federal systems. Paul’s loyalty to Tarsus and to the Empire. He makes some comparatively kind remarks about the Pax Romana, but returns to his basic idea about Rome.

The real life of the Roman Empire was in the growth of, and competition between, new religions.

The eastern end of the Old World has tended to be more unified than the western end.

There have been periodic breakdowns of the unity of [China]. The latest of them began in 1911 when the Manchu regime crumbled in China, and lasted till about 1929, when the Kuomintang reunited China. Since 1929, first under the Kuomintang regime and later under the Communist regime, China has been united, which is its normal condition through the ages, a very great contrast to the western end of the Old World, which has never succeeded in uniting itself since the Roman Empire went to pieces there in the 5th century of the Christian Era.

World government will be needed for the regulation of nuclear weapons. Even if nuclear energy is exploited only for peaceful purposes, a world authority will have to deal with atomic waste.

In a unified world, he wants ethical unity, but cultural variety.

Human beings’ relations with their fellow human beings are

the slum area of human life.

He believes in human interaction as the basis for world peace. He sees the value of students travelling, of tourism, of professional conferences, of the Peace Corps (established by Kennedy in 1961), of networks of personal friendships. But he never visited a Communist country unless you count a crossing of Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1930. He could presumably have visited the USSR under Krushchev. Old post.

He mentions Ashoka.

The reference at 17:21 to Professor Pegram may be to GB Pegram, a physicist involved in the Manhattan Project.

The first introducer thanks, summarises the Toynbees’ schedule in LA, and wraps up.

The points in this summary don’t necessarily follow the order in the talk.

Via UCLA Department of Communication Studies archive.

Links to other posts containing film or audio of Toynbee are here.

Sir Aurel’s frostbite

December 29 2014

The writer could still [in A.D. 1952] recapture the excitement to which he had been moved at the time by a lantern-lecture that Sir Aurel Stein had given at Oxford, in the great hall of the Examination Schools, at some date while the writer was an undergraduate (studia exercebat A.D. 1907-11). The panoramas of huge snow-covered mountain ranges would flash up in his visual memory, and he could recall how, when the lecturer had mentioned, in passing, that he had lost some toes there through frost-bite, the eager listener had recognized that he was in the presence of a discoverer who was indeed in earnest about his intellectual mission.

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

The Cretan villa 4

December 12 2014

At the east end of the Island of Crete on the 19th March, 1912, as he rounded the shoulder of the last mountain on his path from Khandrà to Palaíkastro, the […] twentieth-century Western student of History suddenly sighted the ruins of a baroque villa – built, by the look of it, for one of the last of the Venetian governors of Candia – which, had it been erected on English and not on Cretan soil, would probably then still have been inhabited by the descendants of its original occupant, but which in Crete in A.D. 1912 was already a relic of “Ancient History” on a par with the ruins of the Minoan imperial palace at Cnossos which the twentieth-century English wayfarer had been visiting a week since. As he stood staring at this Jacobean country house, where the Modern Western Civilization in which he himself lived and moved and had his being had suffered the pangs of death on Cretan soil a quarter of a millennium ago, the spectator had an experience which was the counterpart, on the psychic plane, of an aeroplane’s sudden deep drop when it falls into an air-pocket. On that spot on which Time had stood still since the eviction of the Venetians by the ʿOsmanlis in the War of Candia (gerebatur A.D. 1645-69), the spectator was suddenly carried down in a “Time-pocket” from a day in the year A.D. 1912 to a day in the fifth decade of the seventeenth century on which History, in that house, had come abruptly to an end in an evacuation without any sequel except solitude and decay.

The Cretan villa

The Cretan villa 2

The Cretan villa 3

Another Time-pocket: Ephesus.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The Cretan villa 3

December 7 2014

The truth that Venice is “dead and done with”, and the moral that others, besides “Venice and its people”, may be “merely born to bloom and drop” [all Browning, A Toccata of Galuppi’s], have […] been impressed upon the present writer’s imagination by [a] visual image which remains as sharply printed on his mind to-day as at the instant when he received it more than twenty-five years ago. Turning the corner of a mountain in a lonely district at the eastern end of Crete, he once suddenly stumbled upon the ruins of a baroque villa which must have been built for the pleasure of a Venetian grandee in the last days of Venetian rule in the island before the ʿOsmanlis came to reign there in the Venetians’ stead. It was a house which might have been built for a contemporary nobleman in England, and have been lived in – had it stood on English ground – by its builder’s descendants down to the tenth generation in the writer’s own day; but, having been built, as it happened, by Venetian hands in Crete, this piece of modern Western architecture was as utterly “dead and done with” – as veritably “a museum piece” [quoting himself] – in A.D. 1912 as the Minoan palaces at Cnossos and Phaestus which the traveller had been looking at a few days before. In the common mortality which had overtaken each of them in turn, at moments more than three thousand years apart, these desolate habitations of vanished thalassocrats bore witness, against their makers, that

in due time, one by one,
Some with lives that came to nothing,
some with deeds as well undone,
Death came tacitly and took them
where they never see the sun.

[Browning, ibid; lines broken to make them fit into the column here.] As the English traveller recalled the English poet’s lines, he reflected that the four and a half centuries for which Venice had been mistress of Crete were a longer span of time than the present age of his own country’s rule over the earliest acquired of her overseas dominions; and his ears seemed to catch an echo of Galuppi’s music among the Cretan crags.

In you come with your cold music,
till I creep in every nerve.

That baroque ruin in Crete, as it stood in A.D, 1912, was a memento mori for an England that was then still alive, as well as for a Venice that was then already dead.

The Cretan villa

The Cretan villa 2.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

The Cretan villa 2

December 4 2014

On the 18th March 1912 I was walking through an out-of-the-way district in the east of Krete. The landscape was the bare limestone mountain-side characteristic of the Aegean. Villages were rare, and some of them had been sacked during the civil war of 1897 and not reoccupied. Suddenly, as the path turned the corner round a hillside in the limestone wilderness, a Western country-house came into view. It was built in the Jacobean style; the curves and flourishes of its façade were in excellent preservation; one’s own friends, or their great-grandparents, might have walked out of the front door. But, after a few steps towards it, the illusion of life faded. The door was half walled-up with loose stones to convert the ground-floor into a sheepfold, the windows stared blindly, the cornice had no roof above it. It was the villa of some Venetian landowner or official, and must have been deserted since the great War of Candia, two and a half centuries ago.

In that war Crete passed from Venetian to Ottoman rule. Before Venice, it had been under Constantinople, with an Arab interlude.

The Cretan villa.

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

The Cretan villa

December 2 2014

The present writer received his first intimation of the mortality of the Western Civilization in an experience […] at the south-eastern corner of the Island of Crete, en route from Khandrà to Palaíkastro, on the 19th March, 1912. Rounding the southern shoulder of a mountain, he was startled at suddenly finding himself face to face with the ruins of a country house in the Baroque style of architecture. If the date of this experience had been A.D. 1952 instead of being A.D. 1912, probably he would not have felt the same shock; for by A.D. 1952 a deserted and dilapidated seventeenth-century country house was no longer an unimaginable object in the landscape of the writer’s native province of the Western World; but in A.D. 1912 every house of the kind in England would have been intact and have been inhabited – as likely as not, by descendants of the country squire who had had the house built for him some two or three hundred years back in the past. What was startling and disturbing for a Western observer in A.D. 1912 was to see a piece of architecture which, in his mental picture of his native country, was associated with the living world of his own generation standing here in Crete as starkly dead and deserted as the monuments of an Hellenic architecture at Gortyna and Praesus, and the monuments of a Minoan architecture at Cnossos and Phaestus, that he had been inspecting within the last few days in the course of his journey. This inevitable comparison awakened his imagination to the truth that, on this island, a civilization which was his own, and which on his own island was then still self-confidently alive, was already as dead as the civilizations that had come and gone in earlier generations of this species of society.

Gazing at what, at that date, was so portentous a spectacle for Western eyes, the English traveller realized that this house must have been built, on the eve of the Great Veneto-Ottoman War of Candia (gerebatur A.D. 1645-69), by some Venetian country gentleman or official, and that this seventeenth-century Venetian builder must have taken it just as much for granted as his English contemporaries, who were then building other houses in the same style on another island, that his new family mansion would continue to be occupied by his descendants for many generations to come. The Englishman then reflected that a Venetian rule in Crete that had been extinguished by Ottoman arms in A.D. 1669 had by that date been in existence for no less than 457 years – a span of time which, in A.D. 1912, was longer than that of the duration, up to date, of British rule in the oldest of the overseas possessions of the British Crown. The inference was inescapable. If the Venetian Empire had perished, the British Empire could not be immortal; and, if the Western Civilization, in which Great Britain as well as Venice lived and moved and had her being, had become extinct in a former Cretan province of its domain, there could be no province, on any shore of either the Mediterranean or the Atlantic, in which a Westerner would be justified in assuming that his civilization was invested with the incredible privilege of being exempt from the jurisdiction of Death the Leveller.

Except in his journalism, Toynbee isn’t an especially repetitive writer, but he tells the story of this disturbing epiphany several times.

Crete had passed from Byzantium to the Arabs in 824. The Arabs destroyed the old city of Gortyn and made a new capital, Khandak, known to the Venetians (as was the whole island) as Candia, to the Byzantines as Chandax, and now called Heraklion.

Byzantium reconquered Crete in 960 and held it until it passed to Venice in 1204-12, after the Fourth Crusade. The Turks conquered it in 1669.

In 1897 an insurrection in Crete led the Ottoman Empire to declare war on Greece. Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia intervened on the grounds that the Ottoman Empire could no longer maintain control. It was the prelude to the island’s annexation to the Kingdom of Greece, which occurred de facto in 1908 and de jure in 1913 at the end of the Second Balkan War.

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

Your Aunt Nellie and I

November 7 2014

In December 1906, [the writer] had been staying with a pair of distinguished scholars in the persons of his uncle Paget Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1855-1932), the author of A Dictionary of Proper names [sic] and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante [footnote: Oxford 1898, Clarendon Press.] and his aunt Helen Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1868-1910), [footnote: Née Helen Wrigley, of Bury, Lancs.] the editor of Horace Walpole’s letters. At the close of an agreeable and stimulating visit, in which the boy had unselfconsciously disclosed historical interests embracing the Assyrians, the Fourth Crusade, and whatnot, he was chilled by a piece of parting advice which his uncle gave him out of the kindness of his heart. “Your Aunt Nellie and I”, the Dante scholar had announced, “have come to the conclusion that you have been dispersing your interests too widely, and our advice to you is to make your choice of some single subject and to concentrate hereafter on that.” In A.D. 1952 the writer had a still freshly vivid recollection of his own instantaneous conviction that this advice was bad, and of his likewise instantaneous decision not to follow it; and his uncle subsequently gave him reason in retrospect by amiably sacrificing his own pernicious intellectual principles on the altar of personal affection when his wife’s literary work was cut short by her premature death. From that day onwards, her loving survivor took her Walpole, as well as his Alighieri, under his wing in order to complete her edition of the letters as a labour of love. [Footnote: Paget Toynbee was handsomely rewarded for an unprofessional human piety that had taken for its counsellor an unerring heart instead of a fallible head. For one thing, he became almost as highly distinguished in the field of scholarship bequeathed to him by his wife as he had long since been in his own field. But his most gratifying reward was that, when he had made room in his quiver for Horace Walpole’s works beside Dante’s, he found himself armed with an unfailing store of apt quotations. It was hardly possible for there to be any event in the news which a scholar who had thus made himself a double hāfiz could not illustrate by a passage from one or other of the two authors whose works this intellectual archer now knew by heart. On the slightest provocation he would shoot a letter, containing a quotation from either Walpole or Dante, at the editor of The Times; and, as the quotation was always attractively felicitous and the covering letter always discreetly short, the literary arrow usually went home and, in the course of years, the deft archer scored a prodigious tale of hits. Thus, thanks to his unprofessional addition of a second string to his academic bow, Paget Toynbee succeeded in lodging in the columns of The Times a quantity of letters [1908-31] that can hardly have been equalled by any of his contemporaries.]

If Arnold Toynbee had been less inclined towards family piety, one might find something condescending in the last sentence, though not, of course, in the term “unprofessional”, which was entirely one of approbation. DNB, CM Ady, rev. Diego Zancani, quoting an obituary in The Oxford Magazine: “For Toynbee, Dante was a ‘treasure house full of obscurities and difficulties which needed elucidation and solution, and he spared no pains to provide them’. Although he confined himself to the accumulation and elucidation of facts, making no attempt at literary appreciation, his exhaustive memory and tireless energy won him a worldwide reputation as a Dantist […].”

“After his wife’s death in 1910 Toynbee took up her unfinished task of editing Walpole’s letters, and Horace Walpole, to whom Dante was ‘extravagant, absurd, disgusting, in short a Methodist parson in Bedlam’ (letter to William Mason, 1782), from then on shared Dante’s place in his activities, which resulted in three supplementary volumes of Letters (1918-25) and the Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (2 vols., 1915). Toynbee was described as being both physically and mentally ‘ponderous and forceful’ in later life, as if ‘he intentionally limited his field of activity in order to probe deeper into it’ (Oxford Magazine, 722). After 1910 Toynbee, who had no children, and who suffered the consequences of typhoid fever, lived the life of a recluse at Fiveways, the house which he built at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, in 1907.”

Where was he living in 1906?

In two letters to The Times he manages to mention both Dante and Walpole.

July 20 1923:

Paget Toynbee, July 20 1923

January 13 1928:

Paget Toynbee, January 13 1928

His last letter, August 15 1931:

Paget Toynbee, August 15 1931

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Moroni’s tailor

November 3 2014

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Il Tagliapanni

Giovanni Battista Moroni painted his noble tailor c 1565-70 in his native Albino. He worked only there and in Trent and Bergamo. An Ingres three centuries earlier.

Some have suggested that the tailor really was a nobleman. The greenish tinge to the face is in the original. He is wearing the very full, loose breeches known in English as galligaskins, which must have been ribbed or stuffed, and an undyed jacket.

National Gallery, London. Moroni at the RA, to January 25.

Vasari doesn’t mention Moroni in his Lives. Nor does Reynolds in his RA lectures. My great-grandfather, George Clausen, a Victorian who, like Reynolds, never mentioned Caravaggio, does mention him in his RA lectures. Moroni (like Velasquez, Lorenzo Lotto, Veronese, Frans Hals) followed the fine middle course which he himself tried to follow, between “the realism of externals” (bad painting in Clausen’s time) and “the realism of expression or character” (brought to a high level in their late works by Titian, Tintoretto, Rembrandt).

Below, Clausen’s portrait of Thomas Okey, Master of the Art Workers Guild in 1914, where one can perhaps see what he is aiming at. As in most of Moroni’s portraits, the background is grey. It has a fine sobriety. Clausen painted good portraits of craftsmen and family members (and, earlier, of rural workers) and a few dull ones of officials. Okey was from the East End and was helped by Toynbee Hall. He worked for thirty years not as a tailor, but as a basket-maker in Spitalfields, and rose to become, in 1919, when there was more social mobility than now, the first Professor of Italian at Cambridge.

Excuse cropping: best image I have.

George Clausen, Thomas Okey colour 2

Broken lights 2

November 2 2014

The spiritual weapons, plucked from an Hellenic charnel house, with which Modern Western Man had brought to the ground the Hildebrandine Respublica Christiana had been as destructive as the material weapons with which Cromwell’s soldiers had once shattered the west window of Winchester Cathedral.

“When ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, standing where it ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains.” [Footnote: Mark xiii. 14; cp. Matt. xxiv. 15-16.]

Nevertheless, there is a bow in the cloud. [Footnote: Gen. ix. 12-17.] At Winchester, on the morrow of the Puritan iconoclast’s deed, it must have looked as if a mighty work of Medieval Christian art had been utterly destroyed; and in truth it had been damaged beyond all possibility of reinstatement in its inimitable medieval pattern. Yet the broken and scattered fragments were pieced together again, by the piety of a later generation, in a labour of love that – sheer disorder though it might have suggested to the eye of the original artificer – was in truth a new pattern, [footnote: See Bergson’s exposition of the relativity of the concept of disorder in […] L’Evolution Créatrice, 24th ed. (Paris 1921, Alcan), pp. 239-55 […].] fraught with unpremeditated beauty and letting in unforeseen light in the sight of eyes open to the self-revelation of a God who makes all things new. [Footnote: Rev. xxi. 5.] A boy once watched, spell-bound, while this miracle of creation conjured out of destruction was being lit up by the level radiance of a setting summer sun; and a man could catch a glimpse of the spiritual meaning of this visual allegory as he recalled it in his mind’s eye in after-life, in the light of his generation’s experience of a forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. If the same sunlight could thus shine again through the same glass in a new pattern offering a fresh vision, might not the eternal and unchanging incorporeal light of the Beatific Vision again illuminate men’s souls in a society that had been broken and remade by the sufferings of a Time of Troubles?

Winchester west window

Flickr credit: Steven Vacher

Flickr: “A composition of 64 images, combined in Photoshop. The cathedral’s huge west window is made up of fragments of medieval glass put together randomly, in a manner something like pique assiette mosaic work. The original panes were deliberately destroyed by Cromwell’s forces following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. Soon after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the broken glass was gathered up and used again.”

Was this done with any windows destroyed by bombs in the Second World War?

St Mary the Virgin, Isleworth

Religio lignarii (not the piece’s name): St Joseph the carpenter, St Mary the Virgin, Isleworth, north chapel east window, single light, by Thomas Derrick (my grandfather), 1954, glass and lead by Lowndes & Drury; chapel designed by HS Goodhart Rendel, built 1952-54; he had used TD in other churches

Flickr credit: Peter Moore (do not reuse)

A lost art.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

Broken lights

November 2 2014

… or, Religio historici 4.

Why do people study History? Why, to put the question ad hominem, had the writer of the present work been studying History since he was a child and been spending thirty years on this book which he was now finishing? Is an historian born or made? Every historian will have his own answer to this question, because he will be speaking from his own experience. Quot homines; tot sententiae: [footnote: Terence: Phormio, Act II, scene iv, line 14 (= line 454 of the play).] each must speak for himself. The present writer’s personal answer was that an historian, like anyone else who has had the happiness of having an aim in life, has found his vocation in a call from God to “feel after Him and find Him”. [Footnote: Acts xvii. 27.]

If this personal answer finds any favour with the reader, it may help us also to answer a second question that is implicit in the one from which we have started. In beginning by asking ourselves why we study History we have begged the question: What do we mean by History? And the writer, continuing to speak simply for himself from his personal experience, would reply that he meant by History a vision – dim and partial, yet (he believed) true to reality as far as it went – of God revealing Himself in action to souls that were sincerely seeking Him. Since “no man hath seen God at any time” [footnote: John i. 18; 1 John iv. 12.] and our clearest visions are but “broken lights” of Him, [footnote: Tennyson: In Memoriam, Invocation, stanza 5, line 3.] there are as many angles of vision as there are vocations, and the historian’s angle is only one among a number of diverse angles from which souls with diverse gifts and diverse experiences obtain diverse partial visions of God seen through diverse fractions of His “inconceivably mighty works”. [Footnote: “Die unbegreiflich hohen Werke” – Goethe: Faust, l. 249 […].] Besides the historian’s angle there is the astronomer’s, the physicist’s, the mathematician’s, the poet’s, the mystic’s, the prophet’s, the priest’s, the administrator’s, the lawyer’s, the soldier’s, the sailor’s, the fisherman’s, the hunter’s, the shepherd’s, the husbandman’s, the artisan’s, the engineer’s, the physician’s – and this roll-call could be extended over many pages, since human vocations are as numerous and as various as the glimpse of God that each of them gives is narrow and feeble. Among these innumerable angles the historian’s angle is only one; but, like the others, it makes a distinctive contribution of its own to Mankind’s piecemeal vision of reality. History’s contribution is to give us a vision of God’s creative activity on the move in a frame which, in our human experience of it, displays six dimensions. The historical angle of vision shows us the physical cosmos moving centrifugally in a four-dimensional frame of Space-Time; it shows us Life on our own planet moving evolutionarily in a five-dimensional frame of Life-Time-Space; and it shows us human souls raised to a sixth dimension by the gift of the Spirit, moving, through a fateful exercise of their spiritual freedom, either towards their Creator or away from Him.

A plumber has a religion. Religion is your angle on the universe, nothing more or less.

Old posts:

Religio historici

Religio historici 2

Religio historici 3

The Chinese nurse


A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Rat pie

October 6 2014

[The writer] could remember […] how in March 1897, on a visit to some friends of his family’s towards the end of his eighth year, he had broken out into exclamations of dissentient surprise when one of the grown-up people present had begun to expatiate on the goodness, abundance, and variety of the fare on a Transatlantic voyage from which he had just landed. The listening child could not accept a statement that was irreconcilable with what he had heard, time and again, straight from the mouth of his own great-uncle Harry [old post], who was then still alive and who surely must be regarded as a greater authority, considering that he had been, not just a passenger on his own ship, but her captain. The child was never tired of hearing the old man telling how the mouldy taste of ship’s biscuit was welcomely relieved by the sharp taste of a weevil when the eater’s teeth happened to bite through one of the biscuit’s living occupants, and how, when captain and crew from time to time lost patience with their fellow-travellers the rats, they would entertain themselves by organizing a rat hunt which would bring them in tasty rat-pie to supplement for the next few days their dull normal fare of salt beef and plum duff. These, the child knew for certain, were the facts, so this talk of high feeding on board ship could be nothing but a mendaciously spun traveller’s yarn; and it was a revelation to him when the present traveller, just ashore from one of the Cunard or White Star liners of the day, explained good-humouredly, to the child who had been calling his veracity in question, that there had been a good deal of change in the conditions of sea-travel during the thirty-one years that had gone by since Captain Henry Toynbee’s retirement from the sea in A.D. 1866. Thanks to this convincing explanation of the discrepancy which had startled the child’s mind, it dawned upon it for the first time that human affairs were on the move, and that this movement might run so fast as to produce sensational changes within the span of a single lifetime.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The abomination of desolation

September 30 2014

An Englishman of the generation that has lived through the General War of 1914-18 may remind himself […] of an incident which struck him, at the time, as painfully symbolic. As the War, in its ever-increasing intensity, made wider and wider demands upon the lives of the belligerent nations – like some great river that has burst its bounds in flood and is engulfing field after field and sweeping away village after village – a moment came in England when the offices of the Board of Education [1899-1944] in Whitehall were commandeered for the use of a new department of the War Office [1684-1964] which had been improvised in order to make an intensive study of trench warfare. The ejected Board of Education found asylum in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it survived on sufferance as though it had been some curious relic of a vanished past. And thus, for several years before the Armistice of the 11th November, 1918, an education for slaughter was being promoted, in the heart of our Western World, within the walls of a public building which had been erected in order to assist in promoting an education for life. As the writer of this Study was walking down Whitehall one day in the spring of that year 1918, he found himself repeating a passage from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) … then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the World to this time … And, except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved …” [Footnote: Matt. xxiv. 15 and 21-2.]

No reader can fail to understand that when the Ministry of Education of a great Western country is given over to the study of the art of war, the improvement in our Western military technique which is purchased at such a price is synonymous with the destruction of our Western Civilization.

The War Office building was completed in 1906. In 1964, the Admiralty, War Office, Air Ministry, Ministry of Aviation (not the same) and the earlier MOD were merged into the Ministry of Defence, which retained it, though not as its main headquarters. In 2013 it was decided to sell it on the open market. So first war expelled education (presumably from another building: which?), and now business is taking over from war.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

The exile of Thucydides

July 11 2014

A greater luminary in Toynbee’s “Pleiad” of captured or exiled historians (last post).

Thucydides (vivebat circa 454-399 B.C.) was a citizen of Athens who lived through the Twenty-Seven Years’ War of 431-404 B.C., and who was overtaken by the outbreak of the war in his early manhood. He thus belonged to a generation which was just old enough to have known the pre-war Hellenic World as an adult member of the pre-war society; and at the same time he lived long enough to see the denouement of the great catastrophe that brought the growth of the Hellenic Civilization to an end and set in motion the long and tragic movement of decline and fall. The definite breakdown of the Hellenic Civilization was, in fact, the challenge which the generation of Thucydides had to encounter and the experience through which they had to live; and Thucydides was fully alive to the significance of the catastrophe. “This war”, he says in the preface to the first part of his work, [footnote: Thucydides’ History of the Twenty-Seven Years’ War is in two parts, each introduced by a preface. […] Part II is unfinished. (The work was apparently interrupted by the author’s death.) The narrative breaks on abruptly in the middle of the record of the twenty-first year of the war (411 B.C.) out of the total of twenty-seven years (431-404 B.C.) which the author intended to cover.] “was … the greatest upheaval ever experienced by Hellas and by a part of the non-Hellenic World (it would hardly be an exaggeration to say: by the Human Race)”; and he informs his readers in the same passage that, “in the belief that this war would eclipse all its predecessors in importance, he began to write as soon as war broke out”. In the Athens, however, of Thucydides’ day an able-bodied adult male citizen was constrained in peace-time, and a fortiori in war-time, to devote the best part of his time and energy to public service if the State made the demand; and we may suppose that, as soon as war broke out, this “practical” demand upon Thucydides became exacting. At any rate, in the eighth year of the war, we find Thucydides serving as one of the ten Athenian Generals: a board of public officers, elected annually for a twelve months’ term, who exercised the chief executive authority in the civil government in addition to their command over military operations.

It was in this position of “practical” responsibility, which Thucydides held in 424-423 B.C., that he suffered the break in his career which was the turning-point in his life-history. In the winter of 424-423 B.C., when Thucydides was in command of an Athenian naval squadron stationed at Thasos [north Aegean], he failed to prevent a Lacedaemonian expeditionary force commanded by Brasidas from capturing Amphipolis [Thracian mainland]. The lost fortress was a key-position, since it commanded the passage across the River Strymon on the land-route leading from Continental Greece towards the Dardanelles: the only route along which it was possible for the Peloponnesians to strike, with their superior land-power, at a vital point in the Athenian Empire, so long as Athens retained her command of the sea. The Athenian People sought relief for their feelings of chagrin and alarm at the news of this reverse by cashiering Thucydides and sentencing him to exile. And it was thanks to this personal mishap to Thucydides the soldier that Thucydides the historian at last obtained the opportunity to accomplish his life-work.

He never returned to Athens. Where did he live?

“I lived”, he writes in the preface to the second part of his work, “through the whole of [the Twenty-Seven Years’ War] [bracket in original], and I was not only of an age of discretion, but I took special pains to acquire accurate information. It was my fate to be exiled from my country for twenty years after my command at Amphipolis; and in this situation I was enabled to see something of both sides – the Peloponnesian as well as the Athenian – and to make a special study of the War at my leisure.”

Thanks to this fortunate misfortune, Thucydides was able to complete rather more than two-thirds of his projected work, though he seems to have died a premature death before he was out of his fifties. What is more, he has triumphantly achieved his ambition, declared in the preface to the first part of the work, to produce “an everlasting possession” – a permanent contribution to knowledge – “rather than an ephemeral tour de force”. In his own austere intellectual way, this cashiered Athenian officer has anticipated the injunction

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon Earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal;

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” [Footnote: Matt. vi. 19-21.]

The passing agony of one unhappy generation of Hellenes who dealt their own Hellas a mortal blow and knew that her blood was on them and on their children has been transmuted by Thucydides, in a great work of art, into an ageless and deathless human experience.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934


July 10 2014


Toynbee names a

Pleiad of historians – Thucydides and Xenophon and Polybius; Josephus and Ibn Khaldūn; Machiavelli and Clarendon and Ollivier – who […] started life as soldiers or statesmen and […] made the transit from one field of action to another in their own life-histories by returning as historians to a world from which they [had] previously been expelled as prisoners-of-war or deportees or exiles.

Émile Ollivier (1825-1913) is, he admits, its dimmest member – but why, even in a second edition, is he writing about a Pleiad? He even mentions “eight lives”. Somervell omits the section in his abridgement.

Ollivier started as a republican opposed to Napoléon III, but pushed the Emperor toward liberal reforms. He entered the cabinet and was prime minister when Napoléon fell.

His father had opposed the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe (1830-48) and was returned by Marseille to the Constituent Assembly which established the Second Republic (1848-51). He opposed the coup d’état of the head of state Louis-Napoléon, as he was then called, and was exiled for nearly a decade.

Émile Ollivier started to rise during the Republic. He re-entered politics, still a republican, but prepared to work with the Empire, in 1857 after a period in law.

He was one of the early Parisian champions of Wagner. His first wife, Blandine, was the daughter of Liszt and Marie d’Agoult (who wrote as Daniel Stern). She died in 1862. In 1869 he married Mlle Gravier.

Early in 1870 Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen revived his candidature for the Spanish throne. The French government instructed its ambassador to Prussia, Vincent, Count Benedetti, to demand from the king, Wilhelm I, that he withdraw it.

Ollivier was won over by the war party. On July 15 he declared in the Chamber that the Prussian government had issued a note, the Ems Telegram, announcing that his envoy had been rebuffed. He accepted the responsibility of the war, the Second War of the Spanish Succession, “with a light heart”, since it had been forced on France. But on August 9, with the news of its first disasters, his cabinet was driven from office. He sought refuge from the general rage in Italy.

He returned to France in 1873, but his political power was gone. During his retirement he employed himself in writing an apologia in the form of a history of L’Empire libéral in seventeen volumes (1895-1915). (Toynbee counts as far as the sixteenth, which appeared in 1912.)

Josephus, in his latter-day literary work, is in some sense pursuing his previous “practical” activities in a new medium. And this fault is still more conspicuously apparent in the literary work of the French member of our Pleiad: Émile Ollivier.

Ollivier is not without excuse for his frailty, for his personal identification with the disaster that overtook his country in his day was much more intimate, and much more serious, than Thucydides’ identification with the fall of Athens or Josephus’s with the fall of Jewry. Ollivier was a Frenchman who lived through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. For France, this war, which brought to an end a French political and military hegemony of two centuries’ standing on the European Continent, was not only a supreme national catastrophe; it was also a supreme national humiliation, since the war was lost by no honourable defeat but by a lamentable débâcle. And for Ollivier this tragic experience of France was a personal tragedy of equal magnitude; for, at the moment when the disaster occurred, Ollivier occupied in France the principal position of political responsibility next to the Emperor Napoleon III himself. While the Emperor was saved from the fury of the French people by falling into the enemy’s hands, his minister had to fly the country. Ollivier took refuge in Italy, and when he ventured to return to France in 1873 his life was in ruins. Born in 1825, engaged in politics from 1848 to 1870, and virtually Prime Minister in the Imperial Government during the fatal days between the end of 1869 and the 9th August, 1870, Ollivier now found himself, at the age of forty-eight, a scapegoat in the wilderness, with all the transgressions of the Second Empire heaped upon his devoted head. [Footnote: Ollivier applies the simile of the scapegoat to himself in L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, p. 30.]

Ollivier’s retort to the outrageous Fortune which had felled his country and himself by the same terrific blow was to write, on the grand scale, a history of the whole unhappy chapter in French history in which he had played his own unhappy part. The prologue to the drama, as he presents it in L’Empire Libéral, [footnote: L’Empire Libéral: Études, Récits, Souvenirs, par Émile Ollivier (Paris 1895-1912, Garnier Frères, 16 volumes] begins with the morrow of the peace-settlement of 1815; the curtain descends upon the débâcle of 1870 after Ollivier’s fall from office on the 9th August of that year and his subsequent abortive private mission to Italy. The first volume was published in 1895, a quarter of a century after the catastrophe, when the author himself was already seventy years old; [footnote] and thereafter volume followed volume year by year until the sixteenth and last volume was published in 1912, when the author was eighty-seven and when the greater war of 1914-18, which was to reverse the result of the war of 1870-1, was only two years ahead in the future. [Footnote: The writer of this Study, who was an undergraduate at Oxford at the time when the last volumes of L’Empire Libéral were appearing, can well remember the interest which their publication aroused.] In thus transferring to historiography the energies that had been expelled from the field of politics twenty-five years earlier, Ollivier was not achieving a spiritual catharsis and was not pursuing the path of “etherialization”. To parody a notorious maxim of his Prussian enemies, [footnote: “War is only a continuation of State policy by other means” (Clausewitz, General Karl von: On War. Translated by Colonel J. J. Graham from the third German edition (London 1893, Trübner), p. vii).] he was rather taking up the historian’s pen in order to pursue the politician’s aims by the best alternative means that still remained at his disposal. The driving force that impels him to write and write from his seventy-first to his eighty-eighth year is a burning desire to vindicate France and to vindicate Ollivier.

Second footnote in that paragraph:

The final and effective decision to write seems to have been taken by Ollivier as a consequence of Bismarck’s outright avowal that he [Bismarck] had deliberately precipitated the war by tampering with the text of the famous “Ems Telegram”. This outright avowal was not made until 1892, after Bismarck’s dismissal from the Chancellorship of the German Reich by the Emperor William II. Ollivier appears to have been stirred by this revelation in two ways. He was elated to see the responsibility for the outbreak of the war transferred from the shoulders of France to the shoulders of Germany by so conclusive an authority as Bismarck himself; and he was outraged to find that Bismarck’s confession was not being taken by public opinion as an exoneration of Ollivier for his own part in those transactions. L’Empire Libéral seems to have been committed to writing under this twofold stimulus. The context in which Ollivier gives his account of Bismarck’s avowal is illuminating. (See L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, pp. 24-31.)

The dispatch was an internal message from the Prussian King’s holiday site to Bismarck in Berlin, reporting demands made by Benedetti; it was Bismarck’s released statement to the press that became known as Ems Telegram.

Back to main text:

The first of these two motives is proclaimed at the beginning of the book:

“À la veille de disparaître de ce monde, je veux donner une dernière preuve de dévouement à la patrie bien aimée à laquelle j’ai consacré toutes mes pensées. Je veux la laver devant la posterité de la tache d’avoir déchaîné parmi les hommes la misère, la défiance, la haine, la barbaric Je veux démontrer qu’en 1870 elle n’a pas été plus agressive qu’elle ne l’avait été en 1792 et en 1806; qu’alors comme autrefois elle a défendu son indépendance, non attenté à celle d’autrui. Laissant aux contempteurs de son droit les gémissements dont depuis tant d’années ils affaiblissent son courage, je lui tends la coupe où l’on boit le cordial qui rend la foi, la force, l’espérance. Si elle l’accepte, tant mieux pour elle!” [Footnote: Ollivier, E. O.: L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, pp. 32-3.]

The patriotic motive, here confessed, is plain to read; but the personal motive, which Ollivier is at pains to deny, is equally unmistakable. It is revealed in the author’s chagrin that Bismarck’s avowal of his responsibility for precipitating the war has not served to vindicate his own – Ollivier’s – reputation. [Footnote: Ollivier, op. cit., vol. i, p. 30.] It is revealed in the ostentation with which he abstains from vindicating himself (for “on s’excuse même en renonçant aux excuses”). Above all, it is revealed in his grand finale, which is not the débâcle at Sedan and is not the fall of Metz and is not the fall of Paris and is not the signature of the Peace of Frankfurt, but is – at the end of sixteen volumes – the fall of the Ministère Ollivier!

Bad Ems

Benedetti and Wilhelm I at Ems; Ernst Engelberg, Bismarck, Akademie-Verlag Berlin, 1985 via Wikimedia Commons, no more information given

A second-rate practitioner of a dangerous trade (old post).

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

London in the 1890s

April 7 2014

I used to watch, after breakfast, to see Mr Hale, the solicitor who lived in the opposite house across the street, ride off to his office on the horse that his groom had brought to the door. I used to linger by the cab-ranks to look at the horses drinking from the troughs and the sparrows scuffling with each other for the bran that had been spilled from the horses’ nosebags.

He is living at 12 Upper Westbourne Terrace.

A life in London

The arc light.

Cities on the Move, OUP, 1970

War Cloister

March 18 2014

Winchester College War Cloister, memorial to the Wykehamist dead of the two World Wars:

War Cloister, Winchester 2

War Cloister, Winchester

Flickr credit, first image: Alwyn Ladell. Credit, second image: hantsphere.

Architect: Sir Herbert Baker. Dedicated 1924 and 1948. West side has bronze bust of Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding.

The school also has a South Africa Gate, built 1902, commemorating Wykehamists who died in the Boer War (Toynbee was at Winchester September 1902, start of the first academic year after the war’s end, to summer 1907), and a memorial called Crimea in the entry chamber to Chapel, bearing the names of its alumni who died at the siege of Sevastopol.

The Spires of Oxford

March 17 2014

Another bad poem that good people enjoyed, and took to the trenches, appeared in Winifred LettsThe Spires of Oxford, and Other Poems, New York, EP Dutton, 1917 and in A Treasury of War Poetry, British and American Poems of the World War, 1914-1917, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1917. The latter was extended in a second volume to 1919. What were the English editions?

WM, or Winifred Mary, Letts (1882-1972) was English-born, but lived in Ireland. She wrote other popular poems, including one called The Deserter, which was in her The Spires of Oxford, but not the Treasury. Stanford set some of them.

The Oxford poem might (even in its modesty) have had a meaning for Toynbee, who was an Oxford don when the War began and felt the guilt of a survivor (and was probably a draft dodger on top of it). To the end of his life he kept pictures on his mantlepiece of his friends who had died, and for his Ad Portas speech at his old school, Winchester College, in 1974, his last public appearance, he paid homage to them in Latin. (The phrase “dreaming spires” is from Matthew Arnold’s Thyrsis.)

“I saw the spires of Oxford
As I was passing by,
The gray spires of Oxford
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Oxford men
Who went abroad to die.

The years go fast in Oxford,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

They left the peaceful river,
The cricket-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Oxford,
To seek a bloody sod –
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Oxford town.”

Rosalind Murray bibliography

February 14 2014

Toynbee’s first wife, from 1913 to 1946. Cv (page here).


The Leading Note, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1910

Moonseed, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1911

Unstable Ways, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1914

The Happy Tree, Chatto and Windus, 1926

Hard Liberty, Chatto and Windus, 1929


On the Greeks

The Greeks, Preface by Gilbert Murray, A&C Black, 1931


Religious tracts after conversion to Catholicism

The Good Pagan’s Failure, Longmans, Green & Co, 1939

Time and the Timeless, Centenary Press, 1942

The Life of Faith, Centenary Press, 1943

The Forsaken Fountain, Hollis and Carter, 1948

The Further Journey: In My End Is My Beginning, Harvill Press, 1953


She had a small reputation as a novelist before 1920.

EM Forster to Malcolm Darling, July 29 1911: “The best novels I have come across in the past year are Rosalind Murray’s The Leading Note […] and Wedgwoods Shadow of a Titan […].”

Virginia Woolf, diary, November 12 1917: “I went to Mudies, & got The Leading Note, in order examine into R.T. more closely […]. I came home with my book, which does not seem a very masterly performance after Turgenev, I suppose [The Leading Note is about a Russian refugee]; but if you dont get your touches in the right place the method is apt to be sketchy & empty.” Both from html sources.

McNeill: “Her career as an apologist resembled her career as a novelist in the sense that The Good Pagan’s Failure attracted much more attention than what followed.” But he regards The Happy Tree as her best novel.

UK publishing dates.

Differences between Oxford and Cambridge

February 8 2014

Alan Macfarlane on Oxford and Cambridge; beware his dates; he is at the back of King’s College and Clare:

Toynbee’s paternal ancestors were east of England farmers, but he was an Oxford man who spent most of his working life outside a university. He was, however, invited in 1947 to become Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge in succession to GN Clark. See McNeill, pages 208-10 on his reasons for declining. The chair was taken by JRM Butler instead.

Silly repartee:

Sarasota 1965

January 30 2014

Part of David of Sarasota, a silly undated film sponsored by the Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce, produced by LeRoy Crooks. Via Florida Memory, an initiative of State Archives of Florida. The 14-minute version has a clip of Toynbee, a charter faculty member of New College and in residence from December 20 (probably) 1964 until April 8 1965.

The College, an initiative of local citizens led by the Chamber of Commerce, had been founded in 1960. Toynbee’s appointment was announced October 5 1963 (St Petersburg Times, October 6, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 6). The College opened its doors to students in the fall of 1964.

The trustees had bought the former Charles Edward Ringling estate on Sarasota Bay and an area of airport land for the campus and were bequeathed the former home of Ellen and Ralph Caples.

Charles Ringling (1863-1926) of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus was the older brother of John Nicholas Ringling (1866-1936). The Ringling Brothers Circus acquired Barnum and Bailey in 1907.

Near the campus is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, John Ringling’s gift to Florida, “the museum the circus built”, with its bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David; on its property are the Museum of the Circus and the Asolo Repertory Theater, whose late eighteenth-century interior was shipped from Asolo, near Venice, in 1949.

We are shown the Ringling complex, and the Players Community Theater, Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Concert Band, Sarasota High School and its Sailor Circus, Emmett Kelly, Ben Stahl, Thornton Outes, Syd SolomonAl BuellJohn D McDonaldIrving Vendig, beach life and sport, Florida Ballet Art School and Hilton Leech Gallery.

Material from Toynbee’s New College lectures found its way into Change and Habit. From 1955 to 1967, Toynbee exploited the possibilities of the American lecture circuit. “Each time he used his host institutions as a base from which to travel far and wide in pursuit of additional lecture fees.” (McNeill) 

Tempting as it would be to call this post Bread from circuses, New College was not a Ringling foundation (though the Ringling School of Art was).

The lectures – one was on Food and Population – are likely to have been in the usual mould. Did these recycled talks justify the fees? And as McNeill asks, were his side-trips fair on his hosts, who were paying to have him on their campus?

Florida Memory is wrong in dating the film to “ca. 1950s”. It is 1965, though, admittedly, most of the time Sarasota looks as if it is stuck in a more than ordinarily complete southern time-warp.

Toynbee to Columba Cary-Elwes, February 24:

The students here (all 100 of them, all straight of out high school) are of a very high level, and are very much worth trying to help, but we don’t like this part of Florida. After Denver, where we were very happy, it seems un-genuine.

He had taught at the University of Denver in the last quarter of 1964. April 5:

Though the students at New College are good, in every sense, we shall not be sorry to leave Sarasota: you have here the worst side of American life: frivolity combined with militant conservatism.

Sunday April 11 1965 New College news release to Bradenton Herald (extracts):

“His three months here included:

“Seven major lectures to New College students and guests.

“Appearances on campuses in South Carolina, Tennessee, Gainesville and Miami, Florida [on March 4 he had spoken on The Role of the Generalist in the University Stadium, University of Florida, Gainesville].

“Weekly seminars with students.

“‘Bull Sessions’ with students after each of his formal lectures.

“Appearance with other world figures at the ‘Pacem in Terris’ conference in New York to discuss ways to achieve world peace.

“Broadcasts and telecasts on every major television and radio network at the time of the death of Sir Winston Churchill.

“Special appearance on the Today Show on the NBC network.

“Selected guest appearances, numerous dinners and social occasions.

“Completion of the manuscript for a new book [Hannibal’s Legacy].

“Aside from his public appearances and rigorous class and work schedule, Dr. Toynbee lived quietly with his wife in a home in the Uplands. They were often seen walking in the neighbourhood and the sight of the historian crossing the campus from his home to College Hall was a familiar one.

“Student recollections of Dr. Toynbee will always be of a man of great gentleness, unfailing kindness, simplicity in his approach to even great matters, and directness in his reply to even the most complex questions.”

He had been honest enough to share something of the feeling about Florida that he had expressed to Columba:

“Interesting was his comment that life in Florida somehow seems to be ‘unreal’. He explained that so many people now in Florida had formed their lives in different communities, had lived their working days elsewhere, and had then moved here attempting to begin another life, often a different way of living.”

It was becoming a state of migrants. Low taxes, air conditioning and the Interstate highway system had brought retirees from the Northeast, Midwest and Canada. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 produced a wave of Cuban immigration. There were Haitian and other Caribbean and Central and South American migrants. Since the early twentieth century much of the old African American population had been migrating to the north.

The black population of Florida had been 44 percent at the beginning of the century. It was still 16.5 percent, and Sarasota was presumably not a statistical exception, but you don’t see a single black face in the fourteen minutes of David of Sarasota. De facto apartheid will have added to the feeling of unreality. (Stanley K Smith, Florida Population Growth: Past, Present and Future, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida, Gainesville, June 2005)

We have met Toynbee at that first, 1965 Pacem in Terris conference already: New York 1965: Ideology and Intervention (old post). If the audio links there and in Santa Barbara 1967, and the age of planning aren’t working, I hope to restore them.

To Columba, February 24:

I got back late last night from the Pacem in Terris Convocation (I was one of the speakers yesterday morning, [footnote: A.J.T.’s speech was the basis of “Change – Minus Bloodshed,” published in Rotarian 106, no. 6 (June 1965): 40-41.] with Senator Fulbright in the chair). The best of the chairmen was Barbara Ward.

According to the Online Archive of California, the event had ended on February 20. Fulbright opposed the Vietnam policy of the Johnson administration.

My main impression was that Pope John’s love and concern for his fellow human beings has broken through all barriers. Communists, Asians, Africans all spoke about him with affection and gratitude, and I am sure they were being sincere. This is one of those timely acts that cannot be undone. Pope John has “made history”, I should say, in the deepest sense.

He is referring to Pacem in Terris, the encyclical John issued on April 11 1963, a few weeks before he died. It made history because it was explicitly addressed not only to Catholics, but to “all men of good will”.

My second impression is that the American people are committing, pretty heavily, the sin of pride, and are thereby drawing on themselves the moral disapproval of the rest of the world. They are refusing to admit that they may have made a mistake [in Vietnam], that mistakes have to be paid for, and that America cannot be – and ought not to be – always 100 per cent victorious. The choice before them, and this in the near future, is either a compromise over Vietnam or MacNamara’s 1 to 7 million American casualties [where does he get that from?], but they do not seem to be facing the choice. Certainly they are not in our “blood and tears” mood of June, 1940. This is very disturbing in a nation which has mankind’s fate in its hands.

News release, op cit:

“Thursday the college officially bade the Toynbees farewell at a tea in their honor in College Hall. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Music Room and many of the College family found it difficult to move away from the historian after they had shaken his hand, reluctant to say goodby [sic] to this British couple who had been such a part of their lives.”

Reminiscences of his time there are in Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 23 1975. He had a high opinion of the Florida students. He believed that the “bull sessions” and seminars were of more value to them than the lectures.

Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous

The Kamakura shogunate

November 28 2013

In Japan the period 935-1185 saw a progressive transfer of power and wealth from the exotic Imperial Court at Kyoto to provincial barons, and a concomitant lapse from domestic peace into civil disorder. The peace of the capital itself was disturbed more and more frequently and rudely by incursions of the armed forces of adjacent Buddhist monasteries. A civil war between two provincial families of Imperial descent, the Taira and the Minamoto, culminated in 1185 in the victory of Yoritomo Minamoto and his establishment of an effective dictatorship over the whole of Japan from a base at Kamakura – just beyond the southwestern extremity of the Kanto, the biggest of the rare plains on the main island, Honshu. [An hour out of Tokyo by train.] The Imperial Court and its sophisticated culture were allowed to survive at Kyoto, but the Kyoto Government was deprived of effective power. De facto, the Imperial Government at Kyoto had been controlled by regents belonging to the Fujiwara family since at least as early as 858, and, after Yoritomo Minamoto’s death in 1199, the regency for the Bakufu (military government) of the Shogun (Commander-in-Chief) at Kamakura was acquired in 1203 by the Hojo family, who stayed in the saddle till 1333 and maintained effectively, till about 1284, the regime that Yoritomo Minamoto had instituted.

Japan had never before been so efficiently governed as she was from 1185 to 1284, and the gross national product increased, though there was also an increase in the inequality of its distribution. Japan was fortunate in having a strong government during this century; for the Mongols invaded Japan in 1274, and again in 1281, after the completion of their conquest of the Sung Empire in 1279. On both occasions Japanese valour was assisted by storms that made havoc of the invaders’ ships. In 1274 the Mongols’ expeditionary force was small, and it broke off its attack after only one day’s fighting. In 1281 the invading force was on a large scale, and the attack was kept up for two months [before it was repulsed].

The military government of Kamakura was more in tune than the civil government at Kyoto with the cultural and social conditions of twelfth-century and thirteenth-century Japan. Yoritomo Minamoto and the Hojo regents who carried on his regime at Kamakura had contemporaries who played a corresponding role in the field of religion. The earliest forms of Mahayana Buddhism that were introduced into Japan via China and Korea were abstruse in their metaphysics – though some monasteries of these sects became crudely militaristic in their practice on Japanese soil. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Buddhism was presented to the Japanese people in simplified forms in which it was comprehensible and congenial to wider circles. A sect of Zen (Ch’an, Dhyana) Buddhism was introduced into Kamakura in 1191. The Zen spiritual technique of achieving sudden enlightenment through severely disciplined meditation was attractive to the soldiers [samurai].

Zen was the Japanese variant, introduced under the Kamakura shogunate, of Chán, a Chinese school of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasised dhyana, concentrated meditation.

Honen (1135-1212) [Jōdo-shū school] and Shinran (1173-1262) [Jōdo Shinshū school] appealed to the masses by concentrating on the repetition of the name of the bodhisattva Amida (Amitabha) as a talisman for securing admission, after death, to the “Pure Land”, Amida’s paradise.


Nichiren (1222-82) concentrated on chanting the praise of the Lotus Sutra. He was more akin to the ninth-century-B.C. Israelite prophets Elijah and Elisha than to any traditional Buddhist sage. Nichiren combated all other Buddhist sects, intervened actively in politics, got into trouble with the Bakufu, but won popularity by preaching resistance to the Mongols. Each of these twelfth-century and thirteenth-century Japanese simplified forms of Buddhism still had numerous adherents in the 1970s.

Toynbee himself, at the end of his life, knew and recorded a dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda.

Ikeda in his youth had joined a lay organisation founded in 1930 which propagated Nichiren Buddhism among the urban rootless called Soka Gakkai. In 1960 he became its President. In 1975 he set up Soka Gakkai International as an umbrella organisation for Soka Gakkai-affiliated groups around the world. After Toynbee’s death, the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood cut off relations with Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International and excommunicated Ikeda.

Polly Toynbee on Ikeda.

Buddha Daibutsu, Kamakura

Mid-thirteenth century bronze Amida Buddha (a giant Buddha or Daibutsu) at the Jōdo-shū Kōtoku-in temple, Kamakura

Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous

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

Running into the sea

September 23 2013

In A.D. 1952 the writer’s earliest surviving memory was a recollection of having taken and carried out, at the age of two, on the beach at Abersoch in Wales, a decision to run into the sea in order to find out what would happen. What did happen is that his nurse ran in after him, pulled him out, and, in the act, sprained her ankle. There was no benevolently officious nurse to pull him back from the intellectual plunge that he made, six years after that, into the ocean of History.

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

Toynbee in Argentina

August 20 2013

With wife Veronica (woman in pale coat), September 14 1966. Via, an archive of television and cinema footage. No sound.

“En un avión de la empresa Aerolíneas Argentinas arriba al Aeropuerto Internacional de Ezeiza, el filosofo e historiador ingles, Profesor Arnold Joseph Toynbee junto a su esposa; tras descender del avión es recibido por un grupo de personas.”

There had been a military coup in June. The first of the three dictators of the so-called Revolución Argentina was in power.

Argentina endured five periods of military rule between 1930 and 1983, of which the last was the worst: 1930 (first coup) to ’32, ’43 to ’46, ’55 to ’58, ’66 to ’73 (Revolución Argentina), ’76 to ’83 (Dirty War). The Falklands War with Britain took place during the last.

The Brazilians’ nationalism is ironic and light-hearted; the Argentinians’ nationalism is romantic and intense.

Toynbee says in Between Maule and Amazon that he was in Córdoba on September 28 1966 when (not his words) nineteen young, armed Argentine nationalists calling themselves Condors hijacked an Aerolíneas Argentinas DC4 during an internal flight and landed on Stanley Racecourse in the Falklands/Malvinas to plant the flag there.

It does not seem to have occurred to him that the new junta might have welcomed or even staged the event. The organiser, Dardo Cabo, spent a short time in prison, moved from right to left, and was executed during the Dirty War. I am writing this while Spain is agitating about Gibraltar.

A light plane piloted by a Miguel Fitzgerald had touched down on the racecourse in 1964. In October 1968 a group of Argentine naval special forces conducted covert landings from a submarine. The leader of the team, Juan Jose Lombardo, later, as Chief of Naval Operations, planned the 1982 invasion. In November 1968, Fitzgerald tried to repeat his landing and failed. Fitzgerald died in Buenos Aires in 2010. Lombardo is still alive.

On December 21 1966 Toynbee hand-delivered Between Maule and Amazon to OUP in London. The Maule had been the southern frontier of the Inca Empire. It runs east to west a little more than halfway down Chile.

Most of the book describes travels in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile in 1966. There are also impressions of places beyond the Amazon: Mexico in 1953, Guatemala in 1958, Puerto Rico in 1962, Venezuela in 1963. It does not contain detailed itineraries. I will reconstruct what I can and put the details on the page here called Itinerary. Nothing is said about previous publication, but at least part of the content had been syndicated by the Observer Foreign News Service.


The difilm archive lists other clips which can’t be seen online. All sin sonido, silent. In date order and adding links, they are, with times:

Buenos Aires, August 19 (which should surely be September), 1:07: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, visita el Museo Histórico Nacional y recorre las instalaciones acompañado por su director, el capitán de navío (re) Humberto F. Burzio, seguidamente el profesor Toynbee firma un libro de visitante ilustre.”

Córdoba, October 6, 4:49: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, visita la Provincia de Córdoba. Descripción del film: 1. El profesor Toynbee asiste a una recepción ofrecida por autoridades de la fábrica de automóviles Industrias Kaiser Argentina (I.K.A.). 2. El profesor Toynbee visita la Catedral de Córdoba y realiza una recorrida por sus instalaciones. 3. El profesor Toynbee se reúne probablemente con el Gobernador de Córdoba. 4. El profesor Toynbee realiza una conferencia de prensa para los medios de esa provincia. 5. El profesor Toynbee se reúne con el Arzobispo de Córdoba, Raúl Francisco Primatesta. 6. El profesor Toynbee realiza una disertación en teatro.”

Córdoba, October 6, 0:31: “El filósofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, visita la fabrica de automóviles de la empresa Industrias Kaiser Argentina (I.K.A.) y recorre las instalaciones.”

Buenos Aires, October 9, 0:24: “En el Consejo Deliberante se lleva a cabo el 4° Congreso Internacional de Historia de América en la Academia Nacional de la Historia, asiste el Presidente de la Comisión Académica Organizadora, doctor Ernesto J. Fitte, y el Presidente del Congreso, doctor Ricardo Zorraquin Becu, entre otros; y se ve una disertación del filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee.”

Buenos Aires?, 1966 (no exact date), 0:19: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, realiza una disertación en la Universidad Católica Argentina, se encuentra a su lado el señor Emilio Stebanovich, quien hace de traductor.” Which campus not stated.

Buenos Aires, 1966 (no exact date), 0:20: “El filosofo e historiador ingles, profesor Arnold J. Toynbee, realiza una disertación en la escuela superior de guerra.”

Between Maule and Amazon, OUP, 1967

The long ripening

August 9 2013

I quote this every few years because it must be the most concise evocation of a certain mood of late Victorian and Edwardian England, and perhaps of a section of Austria-Hungary, in literature. He does not seem to have known the passage, but it expresses Toynbee’s retrospective view of the world in which he grew up.

“We too had many pretty toys when young:
A law indifferent to blame or praise,
To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong
Melt down, as it were wax in the sun’s rays;
Public opinion ripening for so long
We thought it would outlive all future days.
O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.

“All teeth were drawn, all ancient tricks unlearned,
And a great army but a showy thing;
What matter that no cannon had been turned
Into a ploughshare? Parliament and king
Thought that unless a little powder burned
The trumpeters might burst with trumpeting
And yet it lack all glory; and perchance
The guardsmen’s drowsy chargers would not prance.”


Yeats, from Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.

The non-book of 1963

July 2 2013

Jessica Mitford:

“In later years Philip [Toynbee] and his father came to have a sort of arm’s-length love for each other, although their many disagreements of outlook and philosophy persisted. They chose an unfortunate vehicle for sorting out their respective views: a book called Comparing Notes: A Dialogue Across the Generations [actually A Dialogue across a Generation], published in 1963 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

“What may have been a high point in the father/son relationship surely marks a nadir in English publishing. The 155 pages of tape-recorded exchanges between the two results in the non-book of the year. One can sense the squirming, the shifting in the chairs, the effort to relax as the tape rolls forward recording the Wise Sayings of normally stiff-upper-lipped father and son. The reader suffers along with the participants – and learns almost nothing about the Toynbees as a family; Mummy isn’t even mentioned.

“Philip leads off:

‘I thought we might approach what is going to be a rather difficult job by putting the interview under various headings.’

Arnold: ‘Yes, I think that that’s a good way to start.’

PT: ‘Right, well, I suppose the most fundamental question anyone could ask anyone else is, do you believe in God?’

“They give God a longish whirl – Indian and Chinese beliefs, Christians, Jews, Moslems, agnostics, Roman Catholics and so it goes.

“By page 34, Philip is listing the Seven Deadly Sins – but he has forgotten one.

AT: ‘You’ve missed out Pride.’

[They discuss Pride at some length. Then:] [bracket in Mitford]

PT: ‘Shall we go on with the Deadly Sins?’

AT: ‘Yes.’

PT: ‘Now Sloth. That would seem to be a slightly odd one, because it seems a rather innocent failing …’

“The publisher, perhaps out of Sloth, did no editing of the tapes, supplied no useful footnotes. At the very beginning of the conversation Arnold Toynbee says:

‘My parents were fairly liberal-minded, but we lived with an old great-uncle of mine whom you know all about.’

PT: ‘Uncle Harry?’

AT: ‘Yes, Uncle Harry …’

“Uncle H. appears elsewhere in the text, but nowhere is he further identified; nor are Arnold’s liberal-minded parents. The effect is like being at one of those smart cocktail parties where there are no introductions, it being assumed that Everybody who is Anybody will know the other guests.”


Jessica Mitford, Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee, Heinemann, 1984.

The book has a few redeeming lines. I have quoted it here once or twice. I mention three other published dialogues in the bibliography here:

Surviving the Future, OUP, 1971, with Professor Kei Wakaizumi of Kyoto Sangyo University

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

With Daisaku Ikeda; Richard L Gage, editor; Choose Life, A Dialogue, OUP, 1976, posthumous

Wakaizumi and Urban are much better. Even the Ikeda dialogue is not as bad as the Philip, though Polly Toynbee has called it the book among her grandfather’s works “most kindly left forgotten”.

A better book of 1963 was Mitford’s own The American Way of Death.

A rare fascinator

Baedeker, Britannica and others

June 23 2013

Toynbee acknowledged a debt to German atlases in writing his survey of Europe in the early months of the First World War. In addition to maps,

I am also indebted to books. Among works of reference I would single out two of Baedeker’s handbooks, the eleventh edition of Austria-Hungary (1911) and Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1905), but in this case [both cases?] the German source yields precedence to the Encyclopædia Britannica (eleventh edition, published in 1911), which has proved the most indispensable of all my guides. My extracts from the official census returns of various states are nearly all derived through this channel, [footnote: The 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia takes its Austro-Hungarian statistics from the census of 1900: I might have rectified them by the more recent returns of 1910, but I have deliberately refrained from doing so. The figures of 1910 of course represent the present absolute totals of the various populations more accurately than those of 1900, but relative rather than absolute quantities are valuable for my purpose, and in this respect the figures of 1900 are undoubtedly more accurate than those of 1910. In 1900 the “official” proportions were doubtless already distorted by the Hungarian census-officials, and doubtless the real proportions have slightly shifted in the meanwhile, but both these margins of error are insignificant compared with the gross perversions of truth perpetrated by Hungarian officialdom in 1910. So rapidly is a nation demoralised when once it succumbs to chauvinism.] and I have made especially diligent use of the excellently arranged articles on “Austria-Hungary” and “Hungary.”

For what I have written on Hungary I am likewise in debt to the illuminating study on Hungary in the Eighteenth Century, [footnote: Published by the Cambridge University Press.] by Professor Marczali, the Magyar historian, but above all to the work of Dr. Seton-Watson. So far as I deal with his subjects, my information is taken at second hand: I have learnt all I know about “Magyarisation” from his Racial Problems in Hungary, and all I know about modern Croatia from his Southern Slavs. I can do no better than refer the reader to these two books for the substantiation of my indictment against the Magyar nation. The War and Democracy, written in collaboration by Messrs. Seton-Watson, Dover Wilson, Zimmern and Greenwood, was only published after the relevant part of my own book was already in proof, and I have not yet had leisure to read it. Yet though I have been unable to borrow from the book itself, I owe an incalculable debt to another of its authors besides Dr. Seton-Watson. I have had the good fortune to be Mr. Zimmern’s pupil.

So much for maps and books: they cannot compare with friends. Without the help of my mother and my wife, this book would never have grown ripe for publication, and I have to thank my wife’s father, Professor Gilbert Murray, Mr. A. D. Lindsay and Mr. H. W. C. Davis of Balliol College, and Mr. R. W. Chapman of the Clarendon Press, all of whom have read the book in whole or part either in manuscript or in proof. Their advice has enabled me to raise the standard of my work in every respect. When the critics tear my final draft in pieces, I shall realise how my first draft would have fared, had it been exposed naked to their claws. Last but not least, I must express my gratitude to my publishers, Messrs. J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., for their unfailing kindness, especially for bearing with my delays and reproducing my maps.

ARNOLD TOYNBEE. February 1915.

No authorship is stated for the maps.

He cites the 1914 edition of Konstantinopel und Kleinasien in The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922.

Marczali’s book contains an introductory essay on earlier Hungarian history by Harold Temperley, to whose The Non-Arab Territories of the Ottoman Empire since the Armistice of the 30th October, 1918, OUP, 1924 Toynbee would later contribute.

Toynbee wasn’t the only historian to have acknowledged a debt to the eleventh edition of the Britannica. HG Wells admitted that swathes of his Outline of History relied on it. Many of the original articles in Wikipedia were imported from it.

Paget Toynbee rebuked his nephew in writing for not differentiating his name from that of the other Arnold Toynbee, Paget’s late brother, on the title page of his first book. Given the fame of the earlier Arnold Toynbee and Arnold J Toynbee’s obscurity in 1915, the rebuke seems justified. His subsequent books – except for his other Dent production of 1915, The New Europe, and a few at the end of his life  were signed Arnold J Toynbee.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

The last days of sail

June 9 2013

The writer of this Study had the good fortune, as a child, to catch a last glimpse of the sailing-ship before she vanished from the seas, and to be initiated into the lore of her divers rigs by the former master of an East Indiaman, his great-uncle Captain Henry Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1819-1909), who had retired from the sea in A.D. 1866 without ever having seen service on a steamship or indeed on any build of sailing-vessel other than a full ship since his first voyage at a tender age on a barque [which is a “full ship”]. On summer holidays in the eighteen-nineties at St. Margaret’s Bay on the English shore of the Straits of Dover, under the eye of the South Foreland lighthouse, the small boy learnt the rigs from the old sailor as the ships came gliding past: schooners and three-masted schooners and top-sail schooners (very common); brigantines and brigs (rather rare); barquentines and barques; and full-rigged ships ranging from classic three-masters to the four-masters and five-masters that were a nineteenth-century revival of a sixteenth-century fashion. He learnt to know and love them all, without ever suspecting that he would live to see the disappearance of this divine work of Man’s hands which, in his uncle’s confident eyes, was as much a part of the eternal order of Nature as the chalk cliff on which they were standing, or as the water which gave the measure of the distance from the shore to the passing ship. In the eighteen-nineties the sailing-ships plying through the Straits were still far more numerous than the steamships (though doubtless steam had by then long since outstripped sail in aggregate tonnage). As late as the summer of 1910, there used always to be several four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, and in the summer of 1911 the wreck of one huge sailing-ship was lying huddled against the cliffs between the South Foreland and Dover. Yet, already, forty years back, sail was being driven by steam off one sea-route after another. The China tea clippers had been put out of business by the opening of the Suez Canal in A.D. 1869, which had deprived them of their advantage over steamships trying to compete with them on the long voyage round the Cape; by A.D. 1875 all routes except the Australian had been captured by steamships; and in A.D. 1881 the Australian route itself was conquered for steam by the S.S. Aberdeen with her triple expansion engines, though the wool clippers went on fighting their losing battle till the end of the decade. The interval between the first two world wars saw the process of extinguishing the sailing-ship completed.

Clippers were very fast sailing-ships that appeared in their classic form at the same time as steamships and competed with them for a generation.

Footnotes refer to three works previously cited:

Clowes, G. S. L.: Sailing Ships, their History and Development: Part I: Historical Notes (London 1932, H.M. Stationery Office) […].

Abell, W.: The Shipwright’s Trade (Cambridge 1948, University Press) […].

Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap) […].

Footnote on Uncle Harry:

“Captain Henry Toynbee was one of the most scientific navigators of his day. … ‘He was always sure of his longitude within five miles,’ writes one of his officers. And his wonderful landfalls were the admiration of his passengers.

“Toynbee … went to sea in 1833 at the age of fourteen as a midshipman in the East Indiaman Dunvegan Castle. … Toynbee’s first command was the Ellenborough; and he had also commanded the Gloriana and Marlborough before he took over the Hotspur, the command of which he resigned in 1866 in order to succeed Admiral Fitzroy as Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office. He retired in 1888, and lived to be over ninety years of age, an example of all that an officer in our mercantile marine should be” (Lubbock, Basil: The Blackwall Frigates, 2nd edition (Glasgow 1950, Brown, Son, & Ferguson), pp. 145-6).

Additional footnote:

In The Times of the 25th January, 1951, a photograph will be found of “the Pamir and Passat, the last two sailing barques to take part in the traditional grain race from Australia to England, lying at Penarth Docks. They will be taken in tow to Antwerp for breaking up.”

Petschili in the English Channel

The four-masted barque Petschili in the English Channel between 1903 and 1918; the Petschili was built in Hamburg in 1903 and beached in 1919 in Valparaiso and was a sister ship of the Pamir and Passat just mentioned; Wikimedia Commons

HS Tuke, Four-Masted Barque, 1914

One of those four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, watercolour, Henry Scott Tuke, 1914

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

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

A Conversation with Arnold Toynbee

May 12 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 18.42.58

“Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that his book will become outmoded, but that his notions are keys to opening up a vista of human affairs.”

Films Media Group offers streaming and/or a DVD of A Conversation with Arnold Toynbee from NBC’s Wisdom series, which were half-hour interviews with good and great broadcast allegedly between 1957 and ’65, though this one is said to have been conducted in 1955. No exact date is given, unless it appears in the end credits. Available in US only. Academic institutions get three-year streaming rights for $129.95. An individual can buy the DVD for the same price.

The first two minutes can be seen gratis as a preview, recorded in the spartan enough study of his flat at 45 Pembroke Square, Kensington.

“Professor Arnold Toynbee – eminent British historian and author of the ten-volume work A Study of History – talks with Harvard teaching fellow Christopher Wright in this NBC interview from 1955. Toynbee describes about how it took 27 years to complete his series and why he chose to study history on the level of civilizations rather than of single nations. Pointing out that his mother was also a historian, he discusses the path that led him to that field as well, then articulates his feeling that history is meaningless if not utilized for present-day insight; that one can discover patterns in the past without making heavy-handed predictions about the future; that there are about 20 large historical units, such as Western history, Greek history, Indian history, and others; and that the great religions of the world represent the ultimate structure of history. (29 minutes)”

Toynbee knew Wright, but Wright isn’t mentioned in his books or correspondence, or by McNeill.

“Airing on NBC from 1957 to 1965, the Wisdom series featured interviews with luminaries in science, the arts, and politics. These interviews were often conducted by a journalist or colleague well-known to the guest and usually took place in familiar surroundings such as the subject’s home or workplace. While each program forms a picturesque snapshot of the cultural conventions of the day, it frequently transcends its mid-20th-century broadcast style as it presents challenging and in-depth perspectives from a great mind. Guests include Igor Stravinsky, Robert Frost, Somerset Maugham, Eamon de Valera, Alfred P. Sloan, Robert Moses, Edward Steichen, Margaret Mead, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marcel Duchamp, Arnold Toynbee, and Carl Sandburg. 14-part series, 29 minutes each.” Links are to the rest of the series.

People who give many interviews develop an account of themselves which doesn’t change much. There are no surprises here, as there are not in most of his post-Study journalism.

“1. Professor Arnold Toynbee: Historian (02:03)
Available for Free Preview

The 10-volume set ‘A Study of History’ is Toynbee’s life’s work. Arnold Toynbee’s roots are in London although he harbors fond feelings for Yorkshire.

2. Professor Arnold Toynbee’s Passion for History (03:46)

‘A Study of History’ takes 27 years to complete. Toynbee’s mother was an influence on his desire to study history.

3. Toynbee’s Early Works (02:17)

In 1903 Professor Arnold Toynbee creates a drawing book fashioned in the form of a Greek Historian. Toynbee discusses his [1911-12] trip to Greece.

4. War Changes Toynbee’s Direction (03:11)

Sick with dysentery, Toynbee’s hospital stay during [surely before] the war changes his focus of history [it was the war itself that did that]. Toynbee soon [in the Greco-Turkish War] becomes a correspondent.

5. Importance of History (03:46)

Professor Arnold Toynbee does not believe a committee can write a book. He articulates his feeling that history is meaningless if not utilized for present-day insight. One can discover patterns in the past without making heavy-handed predictions about the future

6. Toynbee’s Theory of History (01:59)

Professor Arnold Toynbee feels that working with individual nations in history is too singular. He studies civilizations, origins, and believes that the great religions of the world represent the ultimate structure of history.

7. Characterizing Civilizations (03:13)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that one must look at other nations [not only one’s own] to understand an individual civilization. He discuses why he believes civilizations decline.

8. Challenge of Our Time (03:00)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes we have the power to save ourselves. He discusses the affect of atomic weapons on the imagination. All individuals make history.

9. Religion in History (02:35)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that any challenge puts you face to face with religion. Religion is the mystery behind phenomena.

10. History Moves and Changes (02:41)

Professor Arnold Toynbee believes that his book will become outmoded, but that his notions are keys to opening up a vista of human affairs. He discusses other works and his faith in the future.

11. Credits: A Conversation with Arnold Toynbee – From NBC’s Wisdom Series (00:27)”

Can anyone identify all the monuments at the beginning? The Buddha at the top here? Is the print as one approaches his study Canaletto or later? (Toynbee was Canaletto-conscious. Did Canaletto put birds in his skies?) The other prints? Are the volumes on his desk the Study?

Other posts that link or linked to recordings or film footage of Toynbee are here.

Saving England

April 29 2013

David Cameron on Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1990: “She didn’t just lead our country; she saved our country.”

Below, Saving England, piece by Toynbee, Encounter, Vol 18, No 1, January 1962, section called Spectrum. A number of writers had been invited to comment on the spirit of the previous decade.

He argues that England’s future is in the Common Market or EEC. See also:

1. Television broadcast in German on Englands Rolle in der Weltgeschichte, Third Programme of Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, winter 1961-62 (shown also in English?); revised text published in England deutet sich selbst: 12 prominente Engländer über Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Kultur, Hamburg, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, 1962.

2. Article on Going into Europe, Encounter, Vol 20, No 2, February 1963.

3. Article on Europa, der Gemeinsame Markt und England, Merkur, Vol 17, No 12, December 1963.

4. Letter to The Times, Gesture to European Unity, February 28 1967. Signed also by Edward Beddington-Behrens, George Buchanan, Maurice Cranston, Barbara Hepworth, Julian S Huxley, Jan Le Witt, Henry Moore, Laurence Olivier, Roland Penrose, Herbert Read, Ceri Richards, Patrick Trevor-Roper, Bernard Wall and dated February 25. Probably not written by Toynbee, but he is first signatory and the others are alphabetical. Asks for an exhibition of contemporary European art in London “to dispel lingering doubts and to demonstrate urbi et orbi that the notion of ‘little England’ is a thing of the past […]”. A curiously insular gesture even for 1967.

5. Television broadcast über das Verhältnis Großbritanniens zum europäischen Kontinent, presumably in German, Südwestrundfunk, Baden-Baden (?), February 10 1969.

6. Article, Key to the European Super State, The Times, October 12, 1971. Argues that entry into EEC need not damage relations with Commonwealth.

7. In Morton’s incomplete list of articles sent to the Observer Foreign News Service for syndication to unidentified media here and there around the world, we have Why De Gaulle Will Fail, about France as an agricultural country (1963), Britain’s Place in the World (1966) and Why Britain Must Join Europe (1970 and, presumably different, 1971). In her list of articles written for the Central Office of Information for use in unidentified ways overseas is Historical Reasons behind Britain’s Entry into the E.E.C. (1972).

Churchill had spoken about a United States of Europe in a speech at the University of Zürich on September 19 1946.

The Common Market or European Economic Community was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1958. Britain (and Norway, Denmark and Ireland) applied to join in 1961-62, under another Conservative, Harold Macmillan.

The spread of one’s spectrum depends on one’s age. If one is old enough to have been just grown-up before 1914, the far end of one’s spectrum will include a glimpse of Victorian-Edwardian England seen with a grown-up person’s eyes; and that glimpse, however brief, will abide in one’s memory as a foil against which all later events will stand out in sharp relief. If the accident of age has given one this perspective, that ought to be a help in trying to size up what has been happening in England in this last decade. The main feature of this decade has been a radical change in England’s position in the world; but it was the outbreak of war in 1914 that brought this change to the surface and gave it a momentum that was still unspent in the 1950s. This change is difficult for the English to cope with because the century that ended in 1914 was, for England, a time of rare greatness – and this in many different fields. Such a floruit was bound to be transitory. It is remarkable that England’s time of greatness should have lasted for a whole century; and, indeed, its full bloom did not last later than the 1870s. Anyway, it is over now, and England is having to find a new place for herself in a formidably changed world. In our own time, perhaps only one other country of the same stature is passing through the same ordeal, and that is France. The ordeal is a severe one, but, after all, it is the common lot. France and England are merely the latest of the many countries that have experienced it in the course of history up to date.

Sources of greatness: Greece; Rome; Jerusalem; a landscape, or rather many landscapes; a complex and detailed rural culture; the common law; the medieval Church; medieval chivalry and pageantry; literary and scholarly traditions; a Protestantism that encouraged people to think about their religion; a scientific tradition that went back to Francis, or Roger, Bacon (will we be reading obituaries of Sir Robert Edwardeses a century hence?); political experience; individuality forged in idiosyncratic schools; privacy, from which vice came too; self-improvement among non-privileged urban people; humanitarian and social reforms.

In the past the English have avoided the awful mistake of crying over spilt milk. They have quickly found and milked new cows, instead of standing still and wringing their hands. They stopped grieving over their defeat in the Hundred Years War in the exhilaration of discovering and colonising a New World. They stopped grieving over the loss of the thirteen American Colonies in the exhilaration of making the Industrial Revolution and acquiring a new empire in India. In our day we have had recourse to this simple but effective British philosophy once again in meeting our own generation’s ordeal. Recognising, as we did in good time, that the days of colonial rule were numbered, we decided to make the liquidation of our 19th-century Empire into a festival instead of a funeral. We christened it the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth, and this has been no mere face-saving word-play; for, in the act of coining a new word, we managed to create a new reality. We also discovered that the maturing Commonwealth was not our only compensation for a fading empire. Simultaneously we found another new world to win within the coasts of our own island. If the 19th century was a golden age for England, it was not one for the great majority of her inhabitants. England’s century of economic and naval supremacy abroad was a century of shocking social inequality and injustice at home. In our generation we have won not only the Commonwealth but the Welfare State. (The name may be still controversial, at any rate in American mouths, but the thing itself has been accepted in England by all parties as a good thing which has come to stay.)

The Welfare State and the Commonwealth are obviously two of those exhilarating enterprises that are England’s traditional prescription for easing the painfulness of change. In both enterprises we have given ourselves an extra shot of exhilaration by contriving to be the pioneers and by doing promptly and with a good grace what we realised that we should have had to do, anyway, willy-nilly, sooner or later. Our good sense here is illustrated by the case of the French, who have done much the same things in the end but have done them belatedly, kicking miserably against the pricks and harvesting a minimum of credit, gratitude, and satisfaction. In contemplating their French contemporaries, the English of our generation are tempted to feel smug. The English can no more forget June 1940 than the French can, and the contrast between our respective performances in that year has, ever since, been making both nations awkward to deal with, particularly for themselves. The consciousness of having once been heroes can be as great a handicap as the consciousness of having once failed to rise to the occasion.

Fortunately to-day England is putting her childish pride in her pocket and is knocking at France’s door to ask for admittance to the Common Market. Within twenty-one years of the Battle of France the roles of the two countries have been reversed – and why? France is in a relatively strong position again to-day because she has discovered for herself the British remedy for the painfulness of change. On her overseas front France may be incorrigible. She seems to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing as a result of her successive fiascos in Syria, Indo-China, and Algeria. General de Gaulle seems still to be dreaming of conjuring back to life the military power of Napoleon’s France or Louis XIV’s. But, since the end of the Second World War, most Frenchmen have been busy over something else. They, like us, have found a new world to win within their own home territory. They have been putting France, for the first time, through a thoroughgoing industrial revolution, and, on this economic plane, they have begun to think of French prosperity in the new terms of a united Europe, instead of going on brooding over past French glory in the antique terms of the Rhine frontier.

The post-war French have been making this new vision of theirs effective by translating it into reality through hard work. The French have always been hard workers in good times and in bad times alike; and on this point they might well feel smug to-day in contemplating us. The need to work hard now is one from which the English cannot be absolved by any past achievements; not by our victory in the Battle of Britain, not by our transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth, not by the bloodless social revolution that has produced the Welfare State [the further Glorious Revolution, we might have been tempted to call it]. Achievements are wasting assets, and nothing but unremitting hard work can ever renew them. This truth ought to be obvious; for the post-war fruits of French hard work are only one example out of a multitude in the world around us. In a world in which Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Japanese, as well as Continental Europeans, are all working like beavers, can any nation afford to sit back and rest on its oars?

While the English have been prompt in making over the Empire into the Commonwealth and in narrowing the gulf between the former “two nations” on this island, we have been late in the day in accepting the fact that England is a part of Europe. The proper verdict on this English acceptance of geography is the one that Tennyson pronounced on the lady who told him that she accepted the universe: “By God, madam, you had better!” “How England saved Europe” was the title of a popular history of England’s role in the Napoleonic Wars that was published when I was a child. The author’s thesis was the conventional one that England saved Europe by keeping Europe divided. This may have been a service to Europe at times when unity was being forced on her by one Continental European country’s trying to conquer the rest. England once again saved Europe in that way in 1940; but the occasion will not recur; for to-day, when Europe has been dwarfed by the United States and the Soviet Union towering up on either side of her, that chapter of European and English history has been closed. On this point the Continental European countries have been quick in reading the signs of the times, and they have risen to the occasion by setting out to unite with each other by peaceful agreement. England has not, of course, dreamed of opposing this peaceful unification (she could not prevent it, even if she wished to). She has, however, dreamed of staying outside. This dream of England’s maintaining a self-contained sterling area next door to a united Continental Europe is about as crass an anachronism in our day as General de Gaulle’s dream of France’s regaining her Napoleonic military stature.

If England has now awoken from this dream of hers in time to gain admittance to the Common Market the title of the next chapter of the story may be “How Europe saved England.”

What is the Tennyson anecdote about? Does it have something to do with his proto-Darwinian preoccupations in In Memoriam?

The author of How England Saved Europe, four volumes, London, Smith, Elder and Co, 1899, was a Methodist emigré to Australia, William Henry Fitchett.


A year after this, on January 14 1963, de Gaulle vetoed the British application to join the EEC at a press conference at the Elysée Palace.

“England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions.”

“L’Angleterre, en effet elle est insulaire, elle est maritime, elle est liée par ses échanges, ses marchés, ses ravitaillements aux pays les plus divers, et souvent les plus lointains; elle exerce une activité essentiellement industrielle et commerciale, et très peu agricole. Elle a dans tout son travail des habitudes et des traditions très marquées, très originales.”

That was the first of his “Nons”, though, unlike Thatcher, with her reiterated Nos in the House of Commons, he did not use the word. October 30 1990: “The President of the Commission, M. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.”

The four countries reapplied in 1967. At a further press conference at the Elysée Palace on May 16, de Gaulle again made it clear that he would veto Britain’s application.

A few weeks later, the European Coal and Steel Community (1951, Treaty of Paris) and European Atomic Energy Community (1958, Treaty of Rome) were brought under the umbrella of the EEC. These were the three European Communities, often henceforward called European Community. The ECSC expired in 2002. The EAEC still exists. Would joining the EEC in 1962 have meant a fortiori joining the other two communities as well?

The transition to Pompidou in 1969 allowed the subject to be reopened. Negotiations began in 1970 under Edward Heath. Accession was on January 1 1973 under Heath (with Denmark and Ireland) without a referendum. The original six members became nine. Britain’s membership was confirmed in a referendum held on June 5 1975 under Harold Wilson. Thatcher won a permanent UK budget rebate in 1984. The EEC was renamed EU when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993, to reflect its wider range of operation. Maastricht was amended by the subsequent treaties of Amsterdam (1999), Nice (2003) and Lisbon (2009).

De Gaulle thought in old-fashioned terms (he also saw in British membership a Trojan horse of American imperialism in Europe), but was right about Britain fundamentally. Cameron said similar things in his Bloomberg speech in London on January 23 2013, fifty years, nearly to the day, after de Gaulle’s. “It’s true that our geography has shaped our psychology. We have the character of an island nation: independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel. And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional. For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.”

Britain had seemed a semi-detached if not disruptive member. Thatcher never got past the idea that Germany had to be contained. Britain’s support of any proposal for expansion of membership masqueraded as pro-European, but came also from an instinct that the more members the Community had, the less likely it was to agree on anything or become monolithic. British political parties have ducked and woven through the decades to appease this or that side of a divided electorate. The Maastricht Treaty, though Thatcher had signed up to it (John Major signed it), left Britain more uneasy than ever.

The prospect, after the scale of the debt crisis became apparent in 2009, of a much tighter and more centralised fiscal régime in the EU concerned even a member that had opted out of joining the Euro (which was introduced in physical form in 2002). Cameron, op cit:

“At some stage in the next few years the EU will need to agree on treaty change to make the changes needed for the long-term future of the euro and to entrench the diverse, competitive, democratically accountable Europe that we seek. I believe the best way to do this will be in a new treaty, so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this. My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new treaty for us all, then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners. The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament. It will be a relationship with the single market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.”


Toynbee had suffered an incapacitating stroke by the time Thatcher became Leader of the Opposition in February 1975. What would he have thought of her? He and his wife joined the Labour Party in 1918 and voted for it at the Khaki election, to the disgust of the Countess of Carlisle. McNeill: “His attraction to the Labour Party […] dimmed after 1922 almost as swiftly as it had arisen, and Toynbee retreated from political activism towards a nonparty, vaguely liberal point of view in domestic and foreign affairs.” He would vote Liberal in later years.

More than one piece of journalism by him in the ’60s and ’70s expresses alarm at the trade unions’ abuse of their power. He lived to see the nadir of postwar economic morale in England, the Three-Day Week in the first quarter of 1974 under the Conservative government of Heath, though not its reprise, the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79 under the Labour government of Jim Callaghan which led to Thatcher’s victory. See:

1. Letter to The Times, Backing Britain, February 10 1968 about Wilson’s I’m Backing Britain campaign and the secret union trial and condemnation of four shop stewards who did back Britain by working an extra half-hour a day without pay (he calls himself a Liberal in this letter). This seemed a tawdry and tired campaign even at the time, but was much-noticed in an age of few media outlets and gave a pop-art twist to use of the national flag.

2. Article on The English Sickness, The Observer, November 10 1974. I remember in the ’80s looking at a pile of letters in an attic in which was a letter from early 1974 from one inhabitant of educated Hampstead to another. The writer, who had lived though the war in England, wrote that he had never known morale in the country so low.

3. Article on A State within the State, The Observer, October 26 1975. This was four days after his death and is presented in Tomlin’s anthology as evidence that “Toynbee’s mastery of historical analogy remained with him until the last”. The Observer introduces it as “this last article […] before his death”. But it cannot have been written after his stroke in August 1974 – which begs the question why it was presented thus. Perhaps it was about to be printed and withheld because of his illness. Its reference to Mr Healey’s budget must be to his first budget in March 1974.

4. In Morton’s incomplete list of articles sent to the Observer Foreign News Service for syndication here and there around the world, we have The English Sickness (1966) and The Second Battle of Britain, about the 1972 coal miners’ strike (1972).

I think he would have welcomed Thatcher, with reservations. He loathed the attitude to work of the trade unions. Thatcher introduced legislation to limit their powers and she beat the miners in the endgame, the 1984-85 strike. Heath had been brought down by the miners’ strikes of 1972 and ’74.

He welcomes the Welfare State in its original conception, but would have despised the dependency culture. He believed in self-reliance and thrift. His sympathy for his rural Yorkshire neighbours’ reaction to proto-underclass-sounding city visitors in the late ’30s who

“don’t know how to cook and […] don’t know how to sew and […] don’t know how to cure a ham; and […] can’t even sit at home and talk, because they have nothing in their heads to talk about”

would have been shared by Thatcher in her reminiscing-about-Grantham mode. The reform of the welfare state, which Cameron is now tackling, is Thatcher’s unfinished business.

Not that the work of the welfare state is done. See the return of soup kitchens and food banks in Britain and across swathes of Europe and the US since 2009.

His reservations would not have come from snobbery. But he might have been torn between some of this and a compassionate social conscience, which his uncle, Arnold Toynbee, the economic historian, had had in rich measure and which his own granddaughter, the very unThatcherite Polly Toynbee, would inherit.

He had an equally low opinion of the standard of universal education that Britain had achieved since 1870. The Yorkshire countrywoman’s

view was a tragic commentary upon the social effects of our present half-baked system of Universal Education.

The popular press degraded people.

The bread of Universal Education is no sooner cast upon the waters of social life than a shoal of sharks rises from the depths and devours the children’s bread [footnote: Matt xv 26] under the philanthropists’ eyes. In the educational history of England, for example, the dates speak for themselves. Universal compulsory gratuitous public instruction was inaugurated in this country in A.D. 1870; [footnote: The system of universal direct compulsion was not made complete until 1880, and the practical establishment of free education not until 1891.] the Yellow Press was invented some twenty years later – as soon as the first generation of children from the national schools had come into the labour market and acquired some purchasing power – by a stroke of irresponsible genius which had divined that the educational philanthropist’s labour of love could be made to yield the newspaper-king a royal profit.

So did advertising. So did nearly all manifestations of modern popular culture in Britain. He disliked the professionalisation of sport. Television was

a form of escapism which I arrogantly despise […].

Not everything was bad. He liked the hippies. But

“Recreation” in the present-day Western sense has always seemed to me to be an unhealthy regression to childishness. I have therefore despised it, and I believe I have been right. But does not this judgement commit me to condemning, with it, my own trick of keeping myself preoccupied by a continuous agenda of work all round the clock? This discomfort that I am feeling now that my half-century-long agenda is at an end suggests that, for me, this was serving the same perverse purpose as the infantile philistine’s radio and television. It was making it possible for me to avert my mind from “other business” [spiritual business, and looking inward] from which I shrink […].

Thatcher achieved her reforms at the cost of a certain barbarising of society. Wasn’t she a kind of Diocletian?

Nowadays we don’t think of the welfare state as an “exhilarating enterprise”, we think of it as a social and fiscal problem. We don’t think of the French as hard-working either.

The problem for Britain now is: what is the next great enterprise? The fig-leaf on the world stage of the great liar Tony Blair was to “punch above our weight”. It was a Conservative, Douglas Hurd, who had first used the metaphor, in 1993 (I am not saying it is an impossible thing to do). The Yorkshirewoman was right. The entire challenge is to develop private, and civic, life. Ecological and other change will follow from that.

If that article were to be written today, “education” would have to be mentioned in place of “Welfare State” and “challenge of creating a stable, well-integrated multicultural society” in place of “Commonwealth”. We encouraged immigration to give ourselves a shot in the arm. We showed more enthusiasm in internalising our empire than in merging ourselves with Europe.

Morale is sometimes high during a war and collapses after it. That had happened to England by 1979, whatever Toynbee says about making festivals instead of funerals. Strikes offered a kind of perpetuation of the feeling of heightened living, as if we had become addicted to that in 1940. The Ealing comedies (1947-57) were in large part a celebration of our mediocrity. The Suez fiasco in 1956 humiliated the ruling class. (In the same year, the literary establishment suffered a collapse of credibility with the Colin Wilson affair, in which Philip Toynbee was one of the duped.)

A superficial prosperity allowed the mock-Edwardian Macmillan to assure the working class that they had “never had it so good”. The stranglehold of the trade unions became tighter under Wilson, Heath and Callaghan. Middle-class morale picked up under Thatcher. Some sections of the industrial working class suffered from her policies and haven’t forgiven her.

BBC story today about a return to “east of Suez”, from which Britain had supposedly completed its withdrawal in 1971.


Young, possibly homeless, man on Great Russell Street, central London; Hare Krishna chanters behind him; photograph by Nicola Albon, posted February 21 2012 on her excellent blog Slice of London Life; copyright, used with permission

Saving England, Encounter, Vol 18, No 1, January 1962

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Gropings in the Dark, essay, September 1973, in An Historian’s Approach to Religion, second edition (previously unpublished), with new Preface, May 1978, by Veronica Toynbee, OUP, 1979, posthumous

Experiences, OUP, 1969


March 19 2013

P.T.: You rather like bleak Middle-Eastern scenery, don’t you?

A.T.: Yes. The Mediterranean and the Middle East. I like that stark, bare, rather severe scenery: the hard lines and simple colours, like the Umbrian School of Painting – or the Pre-Raphaelites.

P.T.: And yet, where you live, in Westmorland, it could hardly be more unlike that.

A.T.: Yes, very watery, and beautiful, too, in its own way, but my feeling is really for the other kind of scenery.

Pietro Perugino, Pietà con San Girolamo e Santa Maria Maddalena

Pietro Perugino, Pietà con San Girolamo e Santa Maria Maddalena, Perugia, National Gallery of Umbria; the hard lines may come from landscape, but aren’t limited to it in paintings, nor is Umbria especially stark

Tiberio d’Assisi, Concession of the Indulgence

Tiberio d’AssisiConcession of the Indulgence, Assisi, Chapel of the Roses, Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Pope Honorius III confirming the Porziuncola indulgence, with Mary present)

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

The Authorised Version

March 12 2013

The Authorized Version of the Bible, made in the reign of King James I, gives me, whenever I read it or hear it being read, an intimation of the divine presence informing our fragment of a mysterious Universe. The effect of a diction that is archaic yet at the same time familiar is more like that of music than like that of ordinary speech. It pierces through the Intellect and plays directly upon the Heart.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The arc light

November 9 2012

When, as a child, I used to come home from Kensington Gardens, on winter evenings, after dark, across the bridge leading from Westbourne Terrace to Upper Westbourne Terrace over the Great Western Railway, a palaeotechnic arc light was mounted on a tall standard, overlooking the bridge, to illuminate the marshalling yard below; and, as I passed by, I used to be fascinated by the blue flame flickering between the two black carbon points. Long afterwards, when I was ruminating on the mysterious process through which spiritual illumination arises out of schism in the Soul and in Society, a vivid memory of my early impression of the arc light came to the aid of my imagination.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Repetitive experiences

November 5 2012

“Any man of forty who is endowed with moderate intelligence has seen – in the light of the uniformity of Nature – the entire Past and Future.” [Footnote: Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations, Book IX, chap. 2 […]. Marcus’s melancholy view of Human Life was brought home to the  writer by two repetitive experiences – one consummated when he was fifty-one and the other when he was fifty-seven. One day in May 1940, as he was approaching the corner of the Cornmarket and George Street in Oxford, his eye caught a poster in a newspaper-vendor’s hand announcing: “Liége falls: Forts held impregnable smashed by German guns”, and, for an instant, he was at a loss to know whether he was living in A.D. 1940 or A.D. 1914, because, at the same corner in August 1914, he had been given the same shock by a poster displaying the same words. His second experience of the kind occurred on a day in April 1946, when, as the official train carrying the British Delegation to the Peace Conference of Paris halted at a point between Calais Harbour and Calais Town, it occurred to him that this was the point where the Delegation had been given lunch when they had been travelling this way on this train on a day in December, 1918. Looking out of the railway-carriage window to identify the building, he found that this time it had been rased to the ground.]

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Toy missiles

October 22 2012

P.T.: Have you ever talked to the real fire-eaters, to any of the Pentagon generals?

A.T.: Well now, I was once invited to give a talk in the Pentagon to a roomful of staff colonels, and the wife of the then Secretary for War got up and attacked me for saying that we ought to recognise China. She was a real fire-eater. She had no business to be there, I suppose, but she didn’t hesitate to throw her – or perhaps it was her husband’s – weight about in the presence of all those distinguished professionals. I got a horrible feeling when I went into the Secretary for War’s office. It was full of little cardboard models of missiles. They were all over the tables and chairs and everywhere, and he was delighting in them – like a child surrounded by its toys. Now that was alarming.

He presumably means Secretary of Defense, who replaced the Secretary of War (office abolished; established 1789) in the US cabinet in 1947.

In Britain a Minister of Defence separate from the prime minister replaced the Secretary of State for War (office established 1794; the “War Office”) in the cabinet in 1946, but the office survived as a non-cabinet post. It was abolished in 1964, along with that of First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for Air, and the cabinet minister was restyled Secretary of State for Defence.

Nixon visited China in 1972. The US recognised China in 1979. Britain had done so in 1950.

Russia and China had been diverging ideologically since 1956. The Sino-Soviet split came into the open in 1961 and was never repaired.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

1897 and the end of history 2

June 19 2012

Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his Sixty Years a Queen, “The Story of Her Majesty’s Reign, Illustrated Chiefly from the Royal Collections”, [footnote: London 1897, arranged and printed by Eyre & Spottiswoode, published by Harmsworth Bros.] revealed to me, in his panorama, the achievements of Victorian England.

One of the Acknowledgments in the tenth volume of the Study which were so comprehensively ridiculed by Trevor-Roper.

Toynbee had referred to the same book in the preceding volume.

“History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London [1897] [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century.


“To me it is a matter of indifference whether he read some unimportant book in the library of the Athenæum Club or in No. 45 Pembroke Square, in the summer of 1907 or in September 1952.” Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957.

But he misses the point of those Acknowledgments. There is a larger humility and delight behind the apparent self-centredness. And Toynbee is a romantic. Moreover, if you have a critical mind, it doesn’t matter what you read, since all history is two histories anyway: the subject purportedly being handled and the viewpoint of the historian. The meaning is in the synthesis, as you, a further element, perceive it.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954