Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews

Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews

Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews

Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews

Excerpt

Arnold J. Toynbee A Study of History is undoubtedly the most widely known work of contemporary historical scholarship. In the United States alone--in which country the work has made its widest appeal--more than seven thousand sets of the ten-volume edition had been sold by the end of 1955. The masterly one- volume abridgement of the first six volumes by Somervell, which appeared in 1947, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and through that outlet sold considerably over one hundred thousand copies, while the Oxford University Press has sold almost two hundred thousand copies. There have been innumerable discussions of Toynbee's work in the press, in periodicals, over radio and television, not to mention countless lectures and seminars. Through the agency of all these media Toynbee has himself actively assisted. in the diffusion of his views.

It can therefore be said, without exaggeration, that of its kind Toynbee A Study of History constitutes one of the most famous and most widely discussed books of its time. That time extends from the year 1934, when the first three volumes were published, through 1939 when volumes IV-VI were published, through 1954 when volumes VII-X made their appearance, to the reaches of the next generation or more, which will doubtless develop into the period of exegesis or hermeneutical criticism of the Toynbeean canon.

Toynbee is already, and will be for some time to come, a power in the world to reckon with. It is the impression of some students of the human scene that that power has been neither adequately understood nor sufficiently estimated. Whether this be so or not, it is generally agreed that the influence which Toynbee A Study of History has already exercised, and is likely to continue to exercise, cannot be overlooked; indeed, it is inescapable.

There is scarcely an aspect of the life of man in the modern or in the ancient world which Toynbee's monumental work does not touch upon. Toynbee's erudition, acknowledged by all, is so vast and convoluted that among those who read him

. . . the wonder grows That one small head can carry all he knows.

For most of Toynbee's readers that wonder assumes the form of admiration and something verging upon awe. Toynbee's achievement is of staggering proportions. Ten volumes (with two more . . .

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