Arnold Joseph Toynbee, 1889 - 1975

portrait of Arnold J. Toynbee
TIME magazine cover (17 March 1947)

Born: 14 April 1889, London, England, UK
Died: 22 October 1975, York, England, UK

Toynbee was raised at London, educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. He taught at Balliol College briefly, then King's College London, the London School of Economics, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Not only a student and teacher of history, he helped make some of it, serving in the British Foreign Office through both world wars and attending both Paris peace conferences (1919 and 1946). In his 12-volume A Study of History he identified 23 distinct civilizations throughout history (seven still in existence), analyzing their origins, their strengths, and the eventual collapse of most of them. His central thesis was that civilizations emerge due to responses to challenges in the environment, and those that cannot continue to respond will fail; unlike some comparative historians he did not see the rise and fall of civilizations governed by an inevitable cycle. Although highly regarded during his career, he has been widely criticized in recent decades.

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