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Mr Toynbee's analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations has been acknowledged as an achievement without parallel in modern scholarship In its way Mr Somervell's abridgement of this monumental work is also an unparalleled achievement for while reducing the work to on sixth of its original size he has preserved its method atmosphere texture and for the most part the author's very words Indeed through this miracle of condensation he has provided a concise version that is no mere summary but the very essence of Mr Toynbee's work


10 thoughts on “A study of history Abridgement Vols I IV

  1. says:

    Well I used to have a giant hardback abridgement of this I remember how it used to near cripple me every time I moved my books around or moved house You almost needed two guys just to lift this one volume Or two strong women of course Or nine freakishly strong children I used to read it in bed and that's why I walk with a limp to this day Anyway this guy Toynbee man alive he never stopped writing have you seen how many books he wrote? This particular elephantine work is one of those grandiose Spenglerian surveys of absolutely everything and he has a Theory Wikipedia in a rare burst of fun describes A Study of History thus Of the 26 civilizations Toynbee identified sixteen were dead by 1940 and nine of the remaining ten were shown to have already broken down Only western civilization was left standing He explained breakdowns as a failure of creative power in the creative minority which henceforth becomes a merely 'dominant' minority; that is followed by an answering withdrawal of allegiance and mimesis on the part of the majority; finally there is a conseuent loss of social unity in the society as a whole Toynbee explained decline as due to their moral failure Many readers especially in America rejoiced in his implication in vols 1 6 that only a return to some form of Catholicism could halt the breakdown of western civilization which began with the ReformationSince he wrote this corpulent classic between 1934 and 1956 but he survived another 20 years I wonder if he would have been wagging his old head over the evident connections that so many people miss You may begin with what you feel is a justifiable and harmless Reformation but you do not realise that you are now on a slippery slope which leads straight to boys wearing long hair girls riding motorcycles and LSD being put into the water supplyToynbee describes the rise and fall of civilisations not as some kind of mystical natural organisms like Spengler but like organisations that adapt or die Those are the important things nations and ethnicities are just the wallpaper in the rooms He judges on results the Sumerians exploited the intractable swamps of southern Ira by organizing the Neolithic inhabitants into a society capable of carrying out large scale irrigation projects I wonder if he lived just long enough to call Pol Pot a neo SumerianHistorians mostly sneered at all this overarching giantism but allegedly the public lapped it up – they must have been made of sterner stuff but it was in the days before junk food had made people’s limbs go all floppy so they had the physical strength to stagger home with it from the bookshop Historians these days don’t do this Toynbee Spengler My Great Big Theory of God the Universe and Everything instead they write about the Guild of Oat Cake Re Grinders in Lehrenbreinheimgavau Upper Munster 1341 to 1374 and suchlike As you know I think that history will teach us nothing and I firmly reject any supposed link between Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and Johnny Rotten’s Anarchy in the UK The sex Pistols would have happened anyway even if the Sumerians had still been in charge


  2. says:

    Toynbee's A Study of History is one of those voluminous treatises that I simply can't think of any specific points to include in my review for the book itself already includes virtually everything worth consideration within the field of study The topics in which this book concerned were on the cultural level of civilizations and on the spatiotemporal level of the globe in millennia The main parts of discussion were divided into three sections concerning peace war and confrontation between civilizations while for each individual civilization four phases of its lifespan are primary targets of concern genesis growth breakdown and disintegration In my review instead of detailing and paraphrasing the words of Toynbee I would simply focus on a few interesting ideasassertions from the book and talk a little bit about my personal understandings regarding these ideasFirst is the idea of substituting capacities an idea that's no stranger to us for we apply the same idea to individuals all the time we tell people with physical disabilities not to lose hope in sports but to explore with their mental capacity we encourage students who are bad at sitting inside classrooms to pursue careers in outdoor activities We see this phenomenon in larger entities such as societies and states as well countries with limited resources often developed alternative sources of profit with prime examples such as Japan and Singapore In Toynbee's book however he further extended this idea to civilizations with some modifications As it turned out civilizations are also capable of developing substituting capacities the conuered colonies of the Roman Empire were able to profoundly influence Rome through their prevailing arts and culture Greek mythology and philosophy Eastern architecture and Christianity are all good examples while the conuered peoples were often able to form cohesive national identity under oppression Jews are the best example As a Chinese the history of China seems to me another fitting example of substituting capacity while China was freuently attacked and conuered by nomads the nomadic culture of the north would always be assimilated into the mainstream Chinese culture This idea does seem uite convincing although I do have some doubts because we see many counterexamples in history too Not all those conuered nations were able to rise up on a different battlefield and subjugate their master culturally and not all those conuered peoples were able to repel the suppression and rejuvenate after centuries of diasporas There are certainly merits in Toynbee's theory but the interesting thing about history is that there is never a definite rule of thumb that would always workAnother very thought provoking statement in the book was that technological advances were results instead of causes of the development of civilizations A converse of this statement goes the lag in technological development is an indication of the decline of civilization Toynbee used the All roads lead to Rome example which was not an exaggeration of Roman transportation at its pinnacle but as the imperial power declined and centralized government faded away warlords and local kings built passes and outposts all around their territories essentially destroying the old Roman road system and leading to the Dark Ages Again as a Chinese this inevitably reminded me of the decline of Chinese civilization in the later imperial periods the stagnation in technological breakthroughs wasn't a reason for China's decline it was a precursor to it The reason I find this way of thinking important is because that we often invert causes and effects over we also mix causal relations with random occurrences; a right way of looking at history involves correctly analyzing the relations between various historical events Last but not least I would like to uickly touch on futurism a topic Toynbee spent uite some chapters on Futurism in a historical sense can refer to anything that seeks to cut the ties to the past and traditions and focus solely on tomorrow This stream of thoughts often caused intense social conflicts and resulted in neither a continuation of the status uo nor a world without any traces of the past in Shi Huang's political and cultural unification of China is a prime example of the effects of futurism; the radical policies of burning all the classics and massacring scholars possessing unwanted knowledge turned out to be ineffective and harmful eventually contributing to in's uick downfall Byzantine's Leo III initiated iconoclasm for purer religions but only infuriated his Christian neighbors and further caused damages to his empire Beyond the definition of futurism I'd argue that any civilization under the guidance of idealism is destined to fall for history is never a construction of human ideals and reasons As aforementioned A Study of History is a voluminous treatise and certainly reuires a much longer period of time for digesting the contents than simply reading through the pages I will almost certainly come back in the future and seek new understandings


  3. says:

    I first read A Study of History in the 1970s and found it fascinating and insightful Rather than looking at one nation or area or time span Arnold Toynbee compared what he called civilizations to see if he could find common denominators in their development or their structure A 2017 re read though revealed some issuesFirst the definition of civilization is a little murky as for example he counts the Roman Empire as part of the Hellenic civilization At one level certainly there is continuity and connection but to say that Sparta and Pergamon separated by hundreds of years and a vast cultural chasm are from the same civilization is a stretch But it only takes a little suinting to make it easy enough to swallow and the grand idea overrides the pesky little detailsSecond as Toynbee freely admits there are fewer common patterns than one might expect and his in depth examination of one or two aspects of a particular civilization tend to appear anecdotal than substantialFinally in terms of overall concerns Toynbee places a major emphasis on the role of what he calls higher religions The fact that these religions sometimes bleed over into than one civilization complicates his original argument that comparing civilizations is an effort that makes sense and it also leads to perhaps the most fundamental criticism of this extremely impressive work of scholarship and grand analysisThough Toynbee identifies 30 some civilizations and can trace the historical record back than 5000 years it's not at all clear that we have any kind of perspective on these large scale trends Toynbee seeks to identify and trace Are for example the higher religions an artifact of a stage of development or an enduring aspect of human history that will always be in play? If so then his emphasis on their importance makes sense; if not they are as evanescent as the importance of stirrups in warfare crucial for a brief time but not fundamental in any senseToynbee also discusses his idea of creative and dominant minorities that are the driving force in civilizations When the civilization is on the rise the creative minority leads the way and the mass of people follow happily adopting the ideology and goals of that minority he calls the process mimesis When the civilization begins to stagnate the creative minority shifts to a dominant minority and imposes its values and desire to retain power on the majority This was very likely true when only a minority of people had access to education to the ability to manipulate the levers of power to economic clout but with a broader segment of society much capable of being involved in the processes of civilization it's unclear if that kind of minority retains the power to create consensus it once hadAnd of course the entire idea of the Internet was non existent when Toynbee finished his work on this edition in 1972 and the global village of Marshall McLuhan was just some academic pipedream Toynbee's belief that a world government was not only necessary but also inevitable seems than a little outdated in these fragmented days though of course the wheels of history grind very slowly and who knows how the planet will be governed after climate change shifts the paradigmThere is one very contemporary note that Toynbee anticipated that I can't help but mention He says that civilizations on the decline deal with barbarians in two ways They build walls and sell them weapons Donald Trump of course wants to build that wall and for generations the United States has been arms seller to the world and many of the weapons wielded by the terrorists that Toynbee would likely identify as the 21st century version of barbarians are of American originAll in all A Study of History is very much a creature of its time and place Toynbee's style old fashioned and ornate and he is fond of inserting uotes in their original languages German French Latin as he assumes his readership is of course somewhat fluent in than English He also lingers too long on examples and anecdotes and after a while the mind numbs from historical detail piled on top of historical detailNonetheless A Study of History will reward the patient reader Toynbee views the world and its stories from a vast distance detached as best he can from the random walk of historical events We are all so caught up in today's disasters and misadventures and how the recent past has scarred the present and future that we forget that history does repeat itself in many ways and that we can shed light on today and tomorrow by looking carefully at centuries long past A Study of History does just that and though it seems to us that the world has passed it by it's also possible that future generations will look on it as one of the great achievements of 20th century thought


  4. says:

    This is a Cathedral by Dr Dan Waniek MDCopyright © 2006 danwaniekorg A Study of History Introduction to the Geneses of Civilizations by Arnold Joseph Toynbee 1979This is not a Book This is a Cathedral Its well cut corner stones are great ideas developed by the last masters of history of our times And the master of them all is as cautious as an engineer as talented as any genius and especially as creative as some great lawyers and most great architects are about their lifetime's work Montaigne once wrote something like My work of art is my life After reading Toynbee one feels almost compelled to say just the opposite Well it may be only a book even one originally published in twelve volumes but this is his work of art For many other lives have been lived and never lost in the shadows of this construction and into the blessed light of its interior Sources for the whole master plan in Toynbee's masterpiece include perhaps less Thyucydides Vico and Cantemir and of such names as Abd al Rahman Ibn Mohammad Ibn Khaldun Gibbon de Gobineau Smuts and lord Acton Countless sometime arcane shelves of dusty bibliographical materials are treaded here into a delicate work of Gothic stone Looking like fine laces and sometimes like solid monoliths the strong and yet delicate architecture of the book is both visible in any detail and compelling in toto to say the least Criteria for such modestly named a study appeared to the author almost all by themselves It further took only some simple empirical development to turn the knowledgeable field of studies into a land of plenty But what helped most throughout the process of creation was the mind of the great master Toynbee bringing everything into one piece And then again it's really the vision which commended a sense of wholeness and oneness in this blessed accomplishment of human genius Toynbee had it while travelling by train somewhere in South Eastern Europe and dutifully translated it into an incredibly simple grand projet that subseuently took thirty years to complete It's perhaps a small tribute to the author but not an avoidable choice to read the whole set of volumes and not the many abridgements and the few but strange full editions of this masterpiece If you do so the results are incredibly deep and certainly worth the effort You'll laugh for instance finding famous French historians busy at work seeing their mind entrenched hexagone wherever it never existed by virtue of some retrospectoscope minded methodology You'll almost hear a lawyer pleading in court in a feast of intellectual cases like that of Mahmud of Gazana You'll grasp the desperately and terminally futile emptiness of the West and the Rest frame of mind And you'll see how ideas pass from one mind to another as if by miracle in the gentle light of spiritual and caring understanding Like Sfântul Duh this isn't straightforward and could be invoked but not produced As Jean Cocteau wrote in an ironical epitome of ambient nationalistic fury about France C'est le co sur le fumier Enlevez le fumier et le co se meurt Arnold Joseph Toynbee's twelve volume masterpiece is by far the greatest book of the 20 th century produced by a single mind The other one which is unrestricted is Father Dumitru Stăniloae's translation of the Church Fathers collected in Filocalia românească If the professor Toynbee were not the greatest historian since Thucydides he would no doubt be a prophet Written with profound wit sometimes deeper than we may grasp at our first reading but always tasty such a text could be easily produced in any court of law It would win the day No juror and few judges would afford to take it superficially Especially nowadays For here you will read nothing less than a crystalline mind in the process of thinking clearly and expressing itself simply and completely on the matter of civilization It's a cardinal paradigm It's a dream came true Toynbee extracted historical knowledge from the countless nationalistic shelves and transported it into the realm of metaknowledge using empirical as well as historiographical science Much unlike relativists and other nonsense historiographers the name of Boia comes to mind as one of the worst counter examples he did not destroy national histories in the process He only did what he knew best telling the truth He paid hommage to the last infirmity of noble minds Do not take this book with a grain of salt with easy going coffe table albums or even with your usual intellectual arrogance Take it into the island where you would retire It's than a book you are contemplating here It's the epitaph of the Western Civilization carved in lasting if delicately and well cut stoneISBN 0192152076 BOBE 2648 REFS 0001 RANK # Who cares really ? There are of course thousands of pages This is the Oxford University Press edition using Toynbee's own sketches and maps


  5. says:

    Toynbee starts out strong He acknowledges that most histories reflect nationalism tribalism and his task is to write an objective study involving civilizations that illustrate the universal currents of history which he sees as the progressive movement toward freedom and Christian higher religion expression and self determination While he touches other cultures his focus in this volume is on Western civilization and its Greek roots Toynbee references a dialectical historical process that involves an imperfect creative responses to challenges His dialectic is akin to a Hegelian like progression toward freedom and compassion rather than an open ended challenge response resolution dialectical process that leads only to an endless cyclic rise and fall view of history toward no particular endAs to what draws history to this end of freedom and such Toynbee believes there's a supra human spiritual reality at work How do we know that? Toynbee says that humans have the capacity to make judgments about right and wrong and an obligation to take sides and that love is perpetually striving to overcome hate though love's victory is not assured This in turn he writes suggests that in and beyond and behind the Universe as well as in a human being's conscience there is some spiritual power that is making for good Other culture's might see Toynbee's conclusions suggesting that the West and Christianity are at the vanguard of history differently More importantly it could be that our capacity to choose comes from evolution not a supra human spiritual reality and that such choices are based on conflicting versions of self interest and the freedom to serve that interest In that case universal historical patterns may be about perpetual tension and conflict than progression toward freedom and compassion Toynbee's extensive scholarship is impressive but his historic evidence can be interpreted in an alternative way


  6. says:

    A superb narrative in the History of how civilizations came into being with an insight of how the balances between internal stagnancy against external pressures there was interesting a golden ratio theory to this too leads to rise and fall of civilizations nations and societies A must read


  7. says:

    This 1972 edition ISBN 0192152548 is NOT Somervell's abridgement but a newer revision by the author himself with Jane Caplan


  8. says:

    Great book one of the best written on human history; one book everyone should read


  9. says:

    review based on the 1972 one volume edition by the original author and Jane CaplanArnold J Toynbee does not subscribe to the rules of modern science as exemplified by Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion He explicitly assigns to historians the task of imposing their own reference frame and vocabulary to make sense of the scattered evidence from documents archeological finds and oral tradition The purpose of the historian is not to argue in favour of a Hauptsatz but to achieve spiritual fulfilment by recognizing connections between people who live thousands of kilometers or thousands of years apart from each otherThe basic unit of study in Toynbee's work is the class civilization Civilizations are objects that can be compared differentiated and classified Pioneers in the field that would later be labeled comparative history had to infer analogies and conclusions based on limited knowledge of 2 or 3 civilizations; Toynbee calls himself lucky to be able to draw on sources that pertain to no less than 31 of themIn the abstract passages it is not always easy to ignore the rambling tone of the author He is freuently arguing not always eually convincingly in favour of the spiritual or religious dimension of history He elevates the higher religions above the level of mere civilizations because they have demonstrated in his view the capacity to bridge the barbarian gaps between successive civilizations And I am sure there must be a better marxist term for what he labels the schism in the soul of a civilization Marx by the way is not necessarily less rambling than ToynbeeOn the other hand the book even in this abridged edition contains a wealth of references to factual material in world history that would appear distinctly less interesting when merely presented as such but that gains significance through his narrative of growth and decline of civilizations Whether or not one accepts civilizations as objective falsifiable givens they certainly make sense as abstractions if not metaphors to tie the story togetherThe book is also a useful correction on the rather appallingly biased history program in Flemish and probably other European secondary schools Here I want to single out two examples that mattered to me personally the importance of the clash between Hellenism and Syriac culture to explain the creation of Christianity and Islam; and the role of the Bactrian empire for the contact between Asian and EuropeanNear Eastern culturesModern comparative history tries to identify parallels at a rather specific level than the broad sweeping notions of Toynbee; yet the ambition of Toynbee's program seems to make up for his occasional lack of scientific distance


  10. says:

    I didn't read parts VI to XIThis book tells about the time and place in which it was written than about history itselfHow Toynbee manages to totally ignore something like economy is beyond meHis misuse of the yin yang concept is embarrassing and his other interpretations of mythology often uestionableHis arguments against environmental determinism are nowadays completely laughable he proves the opposite of what he wants to prove There may be better arguments but he doesn't give themAn upside is that the illustrations in this edition are very well chosen