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A Study of History: Abridgement of Volumes I-VI [Kindle Edition]

Arnold J. Toynbee , D.C. Somervell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History has been acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements of modern scholarship. A ten-volume analysis of the rise and fall of human civilizations, it is a work of breath-taking breadth and vision. D.C. Somervell's abridgement, in two volumes, of this magnificent enterprise, preserves the method, atmosphere, texture, and, in many instances, the very words of the original. Originally published in 1947 and 1957, these two volumes are themselves a great historical achievement.
Volume 1, which abridges the first six volumes of Toynbee's study, includes the Introduction, The Geneses of Civilizations, and The Disintegrations of Civilizations. Volume 2, an abridgement of Volumes VII-X, includes sections on Universal States, Universal churches, Heroic Ages, Contacts Between Civilizations in Space, Contacts Between Civilizations in Time, Law and Freedom in History, The Prospects of the Western Civilization, and the Conclusion.
Of Somervell's work, Toynbee wrote, "The reader now has at his command a uniform abridgement of the whole book, made by a clear mind that has not only mastered the contents but has entered into the writer's outlook and purpose."

Editorial Reviews


"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

About the Author

The late Arnold Toynbee was Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and Research Professor of International History at the University of London and author of numerous other books, including Mankind and Mother Earth: A Narrative History of the World.The late D.C. Somervell was a teacher at Tonbridge School in England.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2158 KB
  • Print Length: 628 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192152351
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 31, 1947)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004I5BPVG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,260 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenge and Response March 13, 2004
I first became acquainted with the name of Arnold Toynbee through reading the science fiction of Arthur C. Clarke. Later, I saw references to him in Heinlein and Poul Anderson, and decided to see what it was all about. This book was worth reading. Toynbee's thesis is that all societies rise and fall through a process of "challenge and response."
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.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Toynbee's comparative analysis of the birth life and decline of civilizations is an enlightening masterwork. The corrolations we can draw from history and apply to our own individual development are mind-blowing. A must have in hardback for any library. Takes awhile to work through, but high value added from the experience.
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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And you thought Nostrodomus was a prophet! June 22, 1998
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A Study of History is an excellent, lifetime study of how and why civilization progresses through time. Written in 1939, Toynbee predicts the rise of nationalism, the fall of the USSR, and victory of capitalism, and the enormous growth of Western culture. His central theme is simple yet true: civilizations advance by overcoming outside challenges and internal stagnation. Read this once per lifetime.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The case for History as a guide February 27, 2005
I came to this book through a personal study of the secrets of human development. Singapore's miracle of development from 1970 on was the immediate precursor to discovering this work. The architect, Lee Kuan Yew, repeated read Toynbee's work through his career and used the challenge and response theory effectively to lift his country. Study of History is an enduring masterpiece. Clearly, it is more detailed and rich addressing western civilizations than eastern, but some of this imbalance might be due to the abridgement. I also find it interesting to contrast the book with Jared Diamond's "history as science" theory and would have loved to have seen Toynbee's consideration of Diamond's scholarship. Though Toynbee's emphasis is on the social, cultural and spiritual levels and boxes in geo physical factors in accord with the science of his era, I believe the two works complement each other in the end.
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60 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 Stars Only Because of Abridgment July 29, 2002
I don't normally go after other reviewers, but the dolts submitting their thoughts about this author are uninformed in the extreme. If ever there were a "desert island" author and a book that I would want to have with me on said island it is this one (though not the abridged version). Toynbee is a true polymath and one of the progenitors of Jacob Burckhardt, Daniel J. Boorstin, Jacques Barzun, et al. He delivers in concise, exquisitely rendered prose, an overview of western culture that has never been matched in terms of scope and economy - two terms that are not always congruous. For insights into the development of western civilization, its driving forces, main events, greatest influences, etc. , one need look no further than Toynbee. To compare it to Wells' work is to compare persimmons to oranges. One leaves a slightly bitter, puckery taste, the other slakes one's thirst.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas March 4, 2004
Toynbee has three major theories of the rise and fall of civilizations.
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classy book
Very tough to understand book. I understand author try to prove that behavior on national scale can be predicted on the basis of past history. Sort of "leopard never change spots".
Published 2 months ago by Volare
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 2 months ago by Nasser Alshaikhmubarak
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the greatest History of Humankind works ever written.
Published 3 months ago by Dale Andersen
1.0 out of 5 stars This item entry is extremely misleading. The listed books ...
This item entry is extremely misleading. The listed books are obviously for the abridgement, yet the photo shows the full set. Read more
Published 4 months ago by John C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Etruscans and Tuscans and the natural domestication of animals: the...
"The original Etruscans took part with the Acheans in the post-Minoan Völkerwanderung and had their base of operations somewhere on the Asiatic coast of the Levant" (Arnold... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Roberto Fideli
4.0 out of 5 stars The books istself is wodnerful, copy editing is horrible
A lot of back-list books that make it onto Kindle contain obvious typos, presumably because the OCR software gets confused when publishers scan them in. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Obscuron
3.0 out of 5 stars Picture Did Not Match with Product
Bought thinking I'd get one of the unabridged volumes in the set, but got an abridgment. The picture showed the unabridged set.
Published 10 months ago by MF
5.0 out of 5 stars Macro-history at its best
This is a book that should not be missing from the personal library of anyone interested in macro-history. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Stefan Mihai Stroe
5.0 out of 5 stars So much fun
I'll keep this simple. This is a lot of information, but for someone who is really into history it is a lot of fun to go through. This illustrated edition is great. Read more
Published 15 months ago by JanolabHetrain
2.0 out of 5 stars But, ignored in recent times, is the fact that Toynbee was a racist
Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Toynbee would put pen to paper and write:

"It will be seen that when we classify mankind by color, the only one of the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Damani
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