A Study of History: Abridgement of Volumes I-VI Paperback – Dec 1 1987
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"Of all the books published so far in this century, the one most assured of being read a hundred years from now is A Study of History."--Clifton Fadiman
"Somervell has performed his chosen task--a labor of love--extremely well....A remarkable achievement."--The New York Times Book Review
"Somervell's abridgement is an amazingly accurate version of the original."--New York Herald Tribune
"If...[you] have time for only one book during this year--and the next and the next--Somervell's abridgement of Toynbee's Study of History should be that book."--The Nation
"A veritable masterpiece of erudition and one of the most suggestive, stimulating and inspiring studies of this age."--Los Angeles Times
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HISTORIANS generally illustrate rather than correct the ideas of the communities within which they live and work, and the development in the last few centuries, and more particularly in the last few generations, of the would-be self-sufficient national sovereign state has led historians to choose nations as the normal fields of historical study. Read the first page
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As long as a society is growing, encountering new challenges, overcoming them, and moving on to other challenges, it is healthy. He also describes the "dominant minority," "external proletariat," and "internal proletariat" groups that make up societies. For instance, to take the example of Rome, the Romans themselves were the dominant minority, whose traditions sustained the Republic and then the Empire. The internal proletariat of Rome was the Christian religion, which came to inherit the prestige of the Romans. The external minorities were the Slavic and Germanic tribes on the northern borders, which were kept at bay until the dominant minority lost its will to expand.
Toynbee does not see empires (such as the Roman Empire) or "universal states" as triumphs of a society's strength, but rather as a sign of weakness. A healthy society expands, develops creative arts, and encourages social mobility; an empire has rigid rules of conduct, laws, and social hierarchy. Toynbee's thesis is an excellent primer for understanding history, and can easily be applied to today's societies, including ours. He offers many different examples of growing, static, and declining societies, and shows an incredible mastery of his subject.
Now the bad news: This is dry, tough reading. There are no maps, no visuals, and few "helps" for people unfamiliar with world history.Read more ›
1. Challange and response. There must be a challange to the population in order for a civilization to rise. The challange must be just right. Too little and the civilization does not rise. Too great a challange and the civilization is destroyed before it gets a chance or rise or is destroyed soon thereafter.
2. Withdrawl and change. An element of the civilization withdraws in some manner from the central civilization and undergoes some sort of creative transformation which it then introduces to the greater body of the civilization. This is a mechanism for maintaining the civilization.
3. The Nemesis of Creativity: There is within a civilization a creative minority. If the creative minority lacks the opportunity to create, the civilization will die or stagnate. This can happen in two ways: The majority group, lacking the talent to create, gains enough power to create, but the creativity is second rate and the civilization dies or stagnates. On the other hand, an exogenous group may gain power over the avenues of creativity and the creativity produced is destructive to the civiliation.
Of the three basic ideas the Nemesis of Creativity notion seems the most insightful. The challange and response seems little more than the golden mean. Withdrawl and change seems more relevant. As far as the Nemesis of creativity is concerned, this can be visualized in a simple microcosm. Suppose, for example, government action were taken which prevented the highly talented minority from obtaining either an education or given a good education, this minority were prevented from getting prime jobs. If, say, the space program were afflicted with this sort of thing, second-rate engineers, managers, scientists and such would be in positions of responsibility. Their positions would promote failure. It would be better to give these people jobs with good pay and no decision-making powers.
I particular admire that the author, unlike Spengler, found a space for God at the head of all that he documents; the author was not swayed by the simplistic atheistic zeitgeist of our age.
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People who consider Michael Moore's latest movie, `Fahrenheit 9/11,' sort of crazy, particularly when it is talking about attempts to keep Americans afraid that they are about to... Read morePublished on July 12 2004 by Bruce P. Barten
This is one those books like Well's Outline of History that seem to reach beyond the grasp of any discipline. Read morePublished on June 13 2002
I am Japanese archaeologist living in London 10 years. I am interested in comparative ancient and modern historical study between Japan and western world based on Toynbee Theory. Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2000 by Kazuo Ueno
I am interested in Japanese ancient history and archaeological study based on Arnold J. Toynbee theory.I always want to publish my theory in any journal in the world. Read morePublished on Sept. 5 2000 by Kazuo Ueno