Arnold J. Toynbee Biography

Arnold Joseph Toynbee, a distinguished British historian, history philosopher, and author, is renowned for his monumental work ‘A Study of History.’ This magnum opus offers a comprehensive analysis of the factors that shape the rise and fall of civilizations. Throughout his illustrious career, Toynbee’s beliefs underwent a significant transformation, from being a pro-Zionist to supporting Arab causes. Despite his initial support for a Jewish state in Palestine, he later abandoned this idea due to concerns about the potential for nuclear war. Toynbee’s expertise extended to international affairs, making him a prominent figure in the field. However, by the 1960s, his once highly regarded theories began to lose their prominence among mainstream historians.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In April
  • Also Known As: Arnold Joseph Toynbee
  • Died At Age: 86
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Veronica M. Boulter (m. 1946), Rosalind Murray (m. 1913 – div. 1946)
    • Father: Harry Valpy Toynbee
    • Mother: Sarah Edith Marshall
    • Siblings: Jocelyn Toynbee
    • Children: Antony Toynbee, Lawrence Toynbee, Philip Toynbee
  • Born Country: England
  • Writers
  • Historians
  • Died on: October 22, 1975
  • Place of death: York, England, United Kingdom
  • City: London, England
  • More Facts
  • Education: Winchester College, Balliol College
  • Awards: Order of the Companions of Honour

Childhood & Early Life

Arnold Joseph Toynbee was born on April, 1889, in London, to Sarah Edith Marshall and Harry Valpy Toynbee. His father was the secretary of the ‘Charity Organization Society’ and his sister, Jocelyn Toynbee, was an art historian and archaeologist. He was often confused with his uncle Arnold Toynbee, who was a renowned economic historian. Toynbee received scholarships to ‘Winchester College’ and ‘Balliol College,’ Oxford, where he studied ‘Literae Humaniores’ from 1907 to 1911. During this time, he also attended the ‘British School at Athens’ and began his research on his philosophy about the decline of civilizations.

Career & Major Works

In 1912, Toynbee was appointed as a teacher and a fellow of ancient history at ‘Balliol College.’ He joined the intelligence department of the ‘British Foreign Office’ in 1915 and began his research on Zionism. He released several books during this time, including ‘The Armenian Atrocities: The Murder of a Nation,’ ‘Nationality and the War,’ ‘The New Europe: Some Essays in Reconstruction,’ and ‘The Balkans: A History of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Turkey.’ He also edited and co-authored ‘The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire’ with Viscount Bryce.

During World War I, Toynbee expressed support for a Jewish State in Palestine and served as a delegate to the ‘Paris Peace Conference’ in 1919. He was appointed as a professor of Byzantine and modern Greek studies at ‘King’s College’ of the ‘University of London’ from 1919 to 1924. From 1924 to 1943, he served as the director of studies at ‘Chatham House,’ ‘Balliol College,’ and from 1925 to 1955, he was a research professor and the director of studies at the ‘Royal Institute of International Affairs’ in London. He retired from his position as a research professor of international history at the ‘London School of Economics’ in 1956.

Toynbee’s most celebrated work, ‘A Study of History,’ was published in 1934. It analyzed the growth, development, and decay of civilizations and inspired similar works by other philosophers. He also spoke at the ‘Nazi Law Society’ in Berlin in 1936 and conveyed Adolf Hitler’s vision of building a greater German nation to the British prime minister and foreign secretary. Toynbee’s views on the Soviets shifted over time, and he regarded them as victims of Western hostility in 1952.

Family, Personal Life & Death

Toynbee was married to Rosalind Murray from 1913 to 1946, and they had three sons together. In 1946, he married his research assistant, Veronica M. Boulter. Toynbee passed away on October 22, 1975, in York, England.


Toynbee’s meeting with Daisaku Ikeda, the president and founder of the international Nichiren Buddhist organization ‘Soka Gakkai International’ (SGI), was criticized by his granddaughter, Polly Toynbee, in a 1984 article published in ‘The Guardian.’ In 1987, ‘The Toynbee Prize Foundation’ was commissioned to honor social scientists contributing to the development of the social sciences and humanities. In 2005, exhibitions were conducted around the world to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Toynbee and Ikeda’s first meeting, displaying the contents of their dialogues and the original letters exchanged between them.

Leave a Comment