[In progress]

Important critical writings on Toynbee’s work, with special attention to controversies in his lifetime.

A. Geyl

B. Trevor-Roper

C. Geyl and Trevor-Roper

D. McNeill

E. Selected other

F. Comments inside the Study

G. Toynbee’s reply

H. Other lists

Numbered entries are broken down into




Appreciations with a biographical element are on the Cv page.


A. Geyl

1. Pieter Geyl, Arnold J Toynbee, Can We Know the Pattern of the Past?, Discussion between P. Geyl, Professor in the University of Utrecht, and Arnold J. Toynbee, Professor in the University of London, concerning Toynbee’s Book “A Study of History”, Bussum, Holland, Uitgeverij FG Kroonder, 1948 (in English)

Transcript of a radio discussion broadcast on the BBC Third Programme 1948 January 4 and March 7

It seems to be one discussion broadcast twice. Morton’s bibliography of Toynbee (OUP, 1980) implies that there were two, but mentions only a January transcript in The Listener, in Vol 39, No 990, 1948 January 15. The reverse of the title page of the 1948 book says “Broadcast in the Third Programme of the B. B. C., London, on January 4th and March 7th 1948”, which leaves the matter unclear. The Boston edition (below) says the same thing and presents the same transcript. I have not gone to The Listener archive. The Times gives both broadcasts in its radio listings. Each lasted 40 minutes. What we have in the book looks like a transcript of 40 minutes, not 80, but it could be a digest of two debates.

2. Systeem en Geschiedenis (which means System and History), Nieuw Vlaams Tijdschrift, Vol 3, 1948-9

A paper read before the Sociëteit “De Koepel” te Amsterdam 1948 February 13. Printed in Dutch in Nieuw Vlaams Tijdschrift, 1948 December and reprinted in Tochten en Toernooien (which I think means Tours and Tournaments), Utrecht, Oosthoek, 1950. Apparently never translated into English.

3. Pieter Geyl, Arnold J Toynbee, Pitirim A Sorokin, The Pattern of the Past: Can We Determine It?, Boston, Beacon Press, 1949

Geyl, Toynbee’s System of Civilizations
Sorokin, Toynbee’s Philosophy of History
Geyl, Toynbee, Can We Know the Pattern of the Past?

Geyl’s essay had originally been a talk, Toynbee’s Systeem van Beschavingen (Beschavingen means civilisations), given at the Historisch Genootschap te Utrecht 1946 November 9. It was printed in Dutch in the Society’s proceedings for 1946 and then in Tochten en Toernooien (above). It appeared in English in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 9, No 1, New York, 1948 January.

Sorokin’s essay had appeared in the Journal of Modern History, Vol 12, No 3, Chicago, 1940 September.

Can We Know the Pattern of the Past? is the transcript of the radio discussion or discussions.

4. The Western World, review of Toynbee’s BBC Reith Lectures, The World and the West (OUP, 1953), Manchester Guardian, 1953 February 17

5. Heavy Meal, review of Arnold Toynbee and Veronica M Toynbee, editors, Survey of International Affairs, 1939-1946: Hitler’s Europe, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1954 (to which Toynbee contributed only an Introduction), The Sunday Times, 1954 June 27

6. Debates with Historians, Batsford, 1955; also The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, and Groningen, JB Wolters, 1955 (co-publishers in English); and New York, Philosophical Library, 1956

Containing inter alia

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

Toynbee’s System of Civilizations had appeared in 3 above.

Prophets of Doom (Sorokin and Toynbee) was the text of a lecture given at Stanford in 1949 that appeared as Prophets of Woe in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol 26, No 4, 1950 autumn. A Dutch version, differing considerably from the English, called Ongeluksprofeten Sorokin en Toynbee (Ongeluk means woe or doom), was published in Historicus in de tijd, Utrecht, Oosthoek, 1954.

Toynbee Once More: Empiricism or Apriorism? had appeared in From Ranke to Toynbee: Five Lectures on Historians and Historiographical Problems, in Studies in History, Vol 39, Smith College, Northampton, Mass, 1952. The lectures were given “during the second semester of 1951-1952”. The others are not about Toynbee.

Toynbee the Prophet (The Last Four Volumes) had appeared in Dutch in De Gids, Vol 118, No 1, 1955 January and was based on a (Dutch?) radio broadcast. The English version appeared simultaneously in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 16, No 2, New York, 1955 April and in Christian Register, Vol 134, No 4, Boston, 1955 April.

There may be references to Toynbee in other chapters. There is no index.

7. Letter, Encounter, 1957 November

8. Encounters in History, Cleveland and New York, World Publishing Co, Meridian Books, 1961

Containing inter alia

Othmar F. Anderle, or Unreason as a Doctrine
Toynbee’s Answer
“Hitler’s Europe”

Othmar F. Anderle, or Unreason as a Doctrine, an article about a German apologist for Toynbee, was originally published “in Meridian Books newspaper, The Meridian, New York, Fall 1958”.

Toynbee’s Answer, a review of Vol XII (OUP, 1961) of A Study of History, in which Toynbee answered his critics, had appeared first of all, in English, in Mededelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afdeling Letterkunde, n s v 24, No 5, Amsterdam, 1961.

“Hitler’s Europe”, a review of Survey of International Affairs, 1939-1946: Hitler’s Europe, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1954, had been a talk in English broadcast on the BBC in 1954.

According to Morton, the second two first appeared in a book in the UK edition of Encounters in History, Collins, 1963, which I have. (She does not mention the Anderle piece.) I suggest the earlier US edition, but have not looked at it to check.

There are references to Toynbee in five further essays in Encounters in History:

French Historians for and against the Revolution
Huizinga as Accuser of His Age
Geoffrey Barraclough, or the Scrapping of History
The Vitality of Western Civilization
Looking Back

9. Toynbee published four articles or comments after Geyl’s death 1966 December 31:

Professor Pieter Geyl, The Times (London), 1967 January 7, a footnote to the Times obituary
Pieter Geyl, de Vechter, Elseviers Weekblad, 1967 January 14
Pieter Geyl, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol 2, No 2, 1967 April
Pieter Geyl, Encounter, Vol 28, No 5, 1967 May

I posted a checklist of Geyl’s main critical essays here.


B. Trevor-Roper

10. “Counsels of Hope”: The Toynbee-Jerrold Controversy, Letters to the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, with Leading Articles, Reprinted, Times Publishing Company, 1954 (and see 32 below)

Front page article, 1954 April 9
Leading article, 1954 April 21
Letters from HH The Aga Khan, GE Fasnacht, Douglas Jerrold, Ignaz Maybaum, Philip Sherrard, Arnold Toynbee, HR Trevor-Roper and Martin Wight

Trevor-Roper’s letter was published on [ ].

11. Testing the Toynbee System, The Sunday Times (London), 1954 October 17 (and see 16 below)

12. Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, 1957 June

A piece by Trevor-Roper in a literary magazine. Correspondence following publication appeared in the July, August, September, October and November issues.

Reprinted in Hugh Trevor-Roper, Men and Events, New York, Harper, 1957 (but not in Historical Essays, Macmillan, 1957); and in Stephen Spender, Irving Kristol and Melvin J Lasky, editors, Encounters, An Anthology from the First Ten Years of Encounter Magazine, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963.

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

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

15. Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010


C. Geyl and Trevor-Roper

16. MF Ashley Montagu, editor, Toynbee and History, Critical Essays and Reviews, Boston, Porter Sargent, 1956

Containing, among thirty essays on Toynbee,

Geyl, Toynbee’s System of Civilizations, from The Pattern of the Past
Sorokin, Toynbee’s Philosophy of History, from The Pattern of the Past
Geyl, Toynbee as Prophet, from Debates with Historians (renamed)
Hugh Trevor-Roper, Testing the Toynbee System

And three pieces by Toynbee:

A Study of History, What I Am Trying to Do
A Study of History, What the Book Is For: How the Book Took Shape
Comment on reviews of the last four volumes of the Study by Fiess and Geyl

Toynbee’s System of Civilizations and Toynbee’s Philosophy of History had appeared in 3 above.

Toynbee as Prophet had appeared in 6 above as Toynbee the Prophet (The Last Four Volumes).

Testing the Toynbee System had appeared in The Sunday Times (London), 1954 October 17.

A Study of History, What I Am Trying to Do had appeared in International Affairs (the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs published by OUP), Vol 31, 1955.

A Study of History, What the Book Is For: How the Book Took Shape was the text of a pamphlet published by OUP in 1954.

The Comment had appeared in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 16, No 3, New York, 1955 June.

The other essays in the book are

MF Ashley Montagu, Foreword
Tangye Lean (younger brother of David), A Study of Toynbee
GJ Renier, Toynbee’s Study of History
H Michell, Herr Spengler and Mr Toynbee
Sir Ernest Barker, Dr. Toynbee’s Study of History: A Review
Times Literary Supplement (unsigned), Study of Toynbee: A Personal View of History
Lawrence Stone, Historical Consequences and Happy Families
AJP Taylor, Much Learning
Geoffrey Barraclough, The Prospects of the Western World
WH Walsh, The End of a Great Work
Christopher Dawson, The Place of Civilization in History
Lewis Mumford, The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Rushton Coulborn, Fact and Fiction in Toynbee’s Study of History
George Catlin, Toynbee’s Study of History
Hans Morgenthau, Toynbee and the Historical Imagination
Kenneth W Thompson, Toynbee’s Approach to History
W Den Boer, Toynbee and Classical History: Historiography and Myth
Wayne Altree, Toynbee’s Treatment of Chinese History
Gotthold Weil, Arnold Toynbee’s Conception of the Future of Islam
OHK Spate, Reflections on Toynbee’s A Study of History: A Geographer’s View
Walter Kaufmann, Toynbee and Super-History
Frederick E Robin, The Professor and the Fossil
Abba Eban, The Toynbee Heresy
Linus Walker, Toynbee and Religion: A Catholic View
Jan Romein, Reason or Religion: An Old Dispute Renewed
Hans Kohn, Faith and a Vision of a Universal World
Edward Fiess, Toynbee as Poet


D. McNeill

Toynbee’s biographer William H McNeill discusses him in

17. Edward T Gargan, editor, The Intent of Toynbee’s History, A Cooperative Appraisal, with a Preface by Arnold J Toynbee, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1961

McNeill’s is the first essay in the collection and is called

Some Basic Assumptions of Toynbee’s A Study of History

The papers had been prepared for a symposium organised by Edward Gargan at Loyola University of Chicago 1955 November. McNeill had not been a contributor to the Montagu volume (above).

The other essays in the book are

Arnold J Toynbee, Preface
Edward T Gargan, Introduction
Friedrich Engel-Janosi, Toynbee and the Tradition of Universal History
David M Robinson, The Historical Validity of Toynbee’s Approach to the Greco-Roman World
GE von Grunebaum, Toynbees Concept of Islamic Civilization
Hans Kohn, Toynbee and Russia
Matthew A Fitzsimmons, Toynbee’s Approach to the History and Character of the United States
Edward Rochie Hardy, The Historical Validity of Toynbee’s Approach to Universal Churches
Eric Voegelin, Toynbees History as a Search for Truth
Oscar Halecki, The Validity of Toynbee’s Conception of the Prospects of Western Civilization

18. Review of Change and Habit, The Challenge of Our Time, OUP, 1966, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, no 371, Philadelphia, 1967 May

19. Arnold J. Toynbee, 1889-1975 in Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol 63, 1977

20. Mythistory and Other Essays, University of Chicago Press, 1986

Two of the essays are about Toynbee:

Basic Assumptions of Toynbee’s A Study of History
Historians I Have Known: Arnold J. Toynbee

The first is the same as the one in 17 above.

McNeill had originally intended the second to be one of his Becker Lectures at Cornell in 1983.

21. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989

22. CT McIntire and Marvin Perry, editors, Toynbee: Reappraisals, University of Toronto Press, 1989

Collection prepared for the centenary of Toynbee’s birth. McNeill’s is the second essay and is called

Toynbees Life and Thought: Some Unresolved Questions

The others are

CT McIntire and Marvin Perry, Preface
CT McIntire and Marvin Perry, Toynbee’s Achievement
Christian B Peper, Toynbee: An Historian’s Conscience
CT McIntire, Toynbee’s Philosophy of History: His Christian Period
Marvin Perry, Toynbee and the Meaning of Athens and Jerusalem
Thomas W Africa, Toynbee: The Time Traveller
W Warren Wagar, Toynbee as a Prophet of World Civilization
Roland N Stromberg, A Study of History and a World at War: Toynbee’s Two Great Enterprises
Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Toynbee’s Interpretation of Russian History
Edward Pessen, Toynbee on the United States
Frederick M Schweitzer, Toynbee and Jewish History
Theodore H von Laue, Toynbee Amended and Updated
Jane Caplan, Working with Toynbee: A Personal Reminiscence

Peper’s contribution is a different version of the Introduction to 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.

23. Toynbee Revisited, pamphlet in British Studies seminar series, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, 1993

24. The Pursuit of Truth, A Historian’s Memoir, University Press of Kentucky, 2005

And see 52 below

He acknowledges an intellectual debt to Toynbee in the Preface to his contribution to the Survey of International Affairs wartime series: America, Britain and Russia, Their Co-operation and Conflict, 1941-1946, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1953


McNeill wrote one of the volumes of the Survey of International Affairs, to which Toynbee contributed a Foreword:

Survey of International Affairs, 1939-1946: America, Britain and Russia, Their Cooperation and Conflict, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1953

He reacts against some of Toynbee’s views in

25. The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community, University of Chicago Press, 1963

He also wrote

26. A World History, New York, OUP, 1967


E. Selected other

There is discussion of Toynbee in

27. Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Routledge, 1945

28. RG Collingwood, The Idea of History, OUP, 1946

29. José Ortega y Gasset, Una interpretación de la historia universal, 1948

30. Lewis Namier, Avenues of History, Hamish Hamilton, 1952

31. Isaiah Berlin, Historical Inevitability, first August Comte Memorial Trust Lecture, delivered 1953 May 12 at the London School of Economics, OUP, 1954

32. Douglas Jerrold, The Lie about the West, A Response to Professor Toynbee’s Challenge, Sheed & Ward, 1954 (and see 10 above)

33. Louis Renou, The Civilization of India according to Arnold Toynbee, Diogenes 13, 1956 (a subject not covered in the Montagu, Gargan and McIntire/Perry collections)

34. Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Louisiana State University Press, four volumes, 1956-87

35. Martin D’Arcy, The Sense of History, Secular and Sacred, Faber & Faber, 1959

36. Ved Mehta, Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters with British Intellectuals, New York, Little, Brown, 1962; material originally published in The New Yorker; includes encounter with Geyl

37. Elie Kedourie, The Chatham House Version and Other Middle-Eastern Studies, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970

38. Roland N Stromberg, Arnold J. Toynbee: Historian for an Age in Crisis, Southern Illinois University Press, 1972


Career and Writings
The Criticism of Toynbee’s History
Toynbee’s Mind and Art

39. Jacob Kovalio, A. J. Toynbee and Japan, in Jacob Kovalio, editor, Japan in Focus, Toronto, Captus University Publications for Ottawa, Carleton University, Asia-Pacific Research and Resource Centre, 1994 (another subject not covered in the Montagu, Gargan and McIntire/Perry collections)

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

41. Richard Clogg, Politics and the Academy, Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, Routledge, 2004

42. Giles Milton, Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of Islam’s City of Tolerance, Sceptre, 2008

43. Richard Overy, The Morbid Age, Britain between the Wars, Allen Lane, 2009

44. Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace, The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations, Princeton and London, Princeton University Press, 2009

45. Thomas W Africa, An Historian’s Palette, Studies in Greek and Roman History, compiled with an Introduction by Frank L Vatai, Claremont, California, Regina Books, 2011

Containing, inter alia, five essays, one of which had appeared in 22 above:

Phylarchus, Toynbee, and the Spartan Myth
The City of God Revisited: Toynbee’s Reconsiderations
Toynbee: Some Problems in Greek History
The Final Vision of Arnold Toynbee
Toynbee: The Time Traveller


46. in various publications on the 1915-16 massacres of Armenians


F. Comments inside the Study

The Study incorporates comments, including disagreements, by people (for example, Gilbert Murray) to whom he has shown the MS before publication or with whom he has discussed work in progress or who have read previously-published instalments. Main instances follow. Toynbee sometimes comments on the comments.

47. Note by HAR Gibb attached to an Annex, The Schism in the Iranic World and the Incorporation of the Arabic Society into the Iranic, in Vol I

48. Additional Note by GF Hudson attached to an Annex on Militarism and the Military Virtues in Vol IV, but not mentioned in the table of contents

49. Many footnotes in Vol VII in which he prints unassimilated comments – on present arguments, and even corrections – by Martin Wight; also an Annex in Vol VII by Wight:

The Crux for an Historian Brought up in the Christian Tradition

and a Note, Spiritual and Material Achievement: The Law of Inverse Operation in Italian Visual Art, attached to an Annex, Spiritual Achievement and Material Achievement: Are They Antithetical or Interdependent?

50. References in Vol VII and Vol VIII, both text and footnotes, to discussions and disagreements with Dmitri Obolensky on the historical relationship between Russia and Byzantium and Russia and the West, including several quotations from a letter or letters from Obolensky; in particular, in an Annex in Vol VII, The Role of the Byzantine Element in Muscovy’s Heritage, substantial quotations from a letter from BH Sumner dated 1951 January 25 and from one from Obolensky dated 1951 June 1; and in an Annex in Vol VIII, The Role of Technological Competition in the Westernization of Russia, a further passage from a letter by Obolensky

51. Annex in Vol VIII by James Parkes:

Jewish History and the Millet Idea

52. Many footnotes in Vol IX in which he prints unassimilated comments – on present arguments – by William H McNeill

53. Three Annexes in Vol XII:

Comment by Rabbi J. B. Agus on Professor Toynbee’s Use of the Term “Fossil” with Reference to the Jewish Community
Comment by Rabbi J. B. Agus on The Notion of Uniqueness
Comment by Rabbi J. B. Agus on the Continuity of The Prophetic Element in Judaism


G. Toynbee’s reply

The twelfth volume of A Study of History, called Reconsiderations, published in 1961, is Toynbee’s only sustained reply to his critics.


H. Other lists

Section B of the Bibliography in Reconsiderations (the only bibliography in the Study) is called Critiques of A. J. Toynbee’s Work.

Part II of S Fiona Morton, A Bibliography of Arnold J. Toynbee, with a Foreword by Veronica M Toynbee, OUP, 1980, is called Works about Arnold J. Toynbee and begins with a section on Surveys of criticism of Toynbee. “Works” includes short articles. Part I lists, in addition to Toynbee’s work, reviews of individual books.

See also footnotes and bibliographies in articles and books about Toynbee.


Stromberg (1972), McNeill (1989) and Clogg (2004) are the only full-length books, as distinct from compendia, entirely about Toynbee.

Unless otherwise stated, the books listed here are first editions in the English-speaking world and the place of publication is the UK.

[In progress]

add Geyl chrono, Jewish controversies, check two titles by Kenneth Winetrout

11 Responses to “Criticism”

  1. TJ Says:

    I don’t know whether you are looking to add more critical references to your list, however, here are two:
    Mazlish, Bruce. The Riddle of History, Harper & Row, N.Y. 1966. “Chapter 10 Toynbee” p. 351-380.
    Dawson, Christopher. Edited by John J. Mulloy. Dynamics of World History. Sheed and Ward, N.Y. 1956. “Arnold Toynbee and the Study of History” p. 390-404.

  2. TJ Says:

    You may already know this source, but one of the finest balanced reviews of Toynbee the historian and Toynbee the man is in the 9 page Introduction (no pagination) to Arnold Toynbee; a Selection from his Works, edited by E. W. F. Tomlin, Oxford University Press, 1978. Tomlin wrote the Introduction. It’s a joy to read.

    • davidderrick Says:

      Thanks. I agree. I list the book in the bibliography here and should probably add it in this section. I suggested somewhere that Tomlin would have made a more sympathetic Toynbee biographer than McNeill, though perhaps the book would have lacked his critical edge. My Introduction is paginated!

      Note to self: Neither Tomlin nor McNeill is mentioned in the Cary-Elwes correspondence. Tomlin is not mentioned in the biography.

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