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Arnold J. Toynbee

Arnold Joseph Toynbee (April 14, 1889October 22, 1975) was a British historian and the nephew of Arnold Toynbee.


  • Of the twenty or so civilizations known to modern Western historians, all except our own appear to be dead or moribund, and, when we diagnose each case, in extremis or post mortem, we invariably find that the cause of death has been either War or Class or some combination of the two. To date, these two plagues have been deadly enough, in partnership, to kill off nineteen out of twenty representatives of this recently evolved species of human society; but, up to now, the deadliness of these scourges has had a saving limit.
    • Civilization on Trial (1948), chapter 2, p. 23.
  • Now civilizations, I believe, come to birth and proceed to grow by successfully responding to successive challenges. They break down and go to pieces if and when a challenge confronts them which they fail to meet.
    • Civilization on Trial (1948), chapter 4, p. 56.
  • Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor.
    • As quoted in Reader's Digest (October 1958).
    • Variation: Civilization is a movement, not a condition. It is a voyage, not a harbor.
      • As quoted in The Social Welfare Forum (1968) by the National Conference on Social Welfare.
  • The human race's prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenceless against ourselves.
    • "Man and Hunger: The Perspectives of History" (Speech to the World Food Congress, January 9, 1963)
  • The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.
    • Statement of 1964, as quoted in Mindfulness edited by Ellen J. Langer, p. 133; also in Social Creativity Vol. 2 (1999) edited by Alfonso Montuori and Ronald E. Purser.
  • We shall have to share out the fruits of technology among the whole of mankind. The notion that the direct and immediate producers of the fruits of technology have a proprietary right to these fruits will have to be forgotten. After all, who is the producer? Man is a social animal, and the immediate producer has been helped to produce by the whole structure of society, beginning with his own education.
    • Surviving the Future (1971), Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 95.
  • Compassion is the desire that moves the individual self to widen the scope of its self-concern to embrace the whole of the universal self.
    • The Toynbee-Ikeda Dialogue: Man Himself Must Choose (1976).
  • ... the dogma that History is just 'one damned thing after another....'
    • "Law and Freedom in History," A Study of History, Vol. 2 (1957). The embedded quotation is attributable to Elbert Hubbard.

A Study of History (1934–1961)Edit

  • So-called racial characteristics are not really racial at all but are due to the historical experiences of the communities in question.
  • The value of the goal lies in the goal itself; and therefore the goal cannot be attained unless it is pursued for its own sake.
  • There is no such thing as gratitude in international politics.
  • On this showing, the nature of the breakdowns of civilizations can be summed up in three points: a failure of creative power in the minority, an answering withdrawal of mimesis on the part of the majority, and a consequent loss of social unity in the society as a whole.
    • Vol. 4 (1948), part B, p. 6.

Quotes about ToynbeeEdit

  • Toynbee predicted: "At the close of this century, the world would be dominated by the West, but that in the 21st century 'India will conquer her conquerors.'"
    • Swami Prabhavananda, The Spiritual Heritage of India: A Clear Summary of Indian Philosophy and Religion (1979)

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