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Arnold J. Toynbee: The English Historian of Greece, the Byzantium and World History/Civilization (1889-1975)

SpeakerProfessor Walter Kaegi, Professor of History and Voting Member of the Oriental Institute, Department of History, University of Chicago
Date Nov 29, 2012
Time 5:00 pm  
Location Gregory Hall, Room 223, UIUC
Cost Free Entry
Sponsor Modern Greek Studies Program; Department of Medieval Studies; Department of History
Contact Dr Stefanos Katsikas-Director of the Modern Greek Studies Program
Event type Lecture
Views 883
Originating Calendar Modern Greek Studies Events

Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) achieved superlative fame in the U. S. in the 1950s and as late as 1989 was described as the most awesome and best-known historian of the twentieth century.  His superb education in classical Greek and his travels in various parts of the Greek-inhabited world before and after World War I enriched his insightful historical perspectives. I shall concentrate on Toynbee's neglected coverage and understanding of Byzantine history in his most important work, his twelve-volume Study of History, which he published in twelve volumes with Oxford University Press from 1934 to 1961.  I shall not revisit his controversial tenure and dismissal as Koraes Professorship at the University of London or his controversial opinions on the Greek-Turkish war that followed World War I.

However some others resented his reputation. But not all: Speros Vryonis in 1992 described him as 'the great historian.' He enriched his knowledge of Byzantium through travel as well as reading.  A year in Greece in 1911-12 and more decisively travels in Greece and Turkey in 1920-1 allowed him to be an eyewitness, albeit a controversial one because of the unpopularity of his public reporting and judgments in 1922-3, on the convulsions and uncertainties in southeastern Europe and western Anatolia that engulfed Greek, Turkish, Kurdish, and south Slavic communities in the wake of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Those contemporary events influenced his interpretation of the history of empires and civilizations, and most specifically Byzantium

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