'Time of Troubles': Arnold J. Toynbee's Twentieth Century

Christopher (Ian) Hall

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) has long been neglected or discounted by scholars of international relations and historians of international thought. Yet his contributions to International Affairs, as well as his Surveys of international affairs and his A study of history demonstrate both his capacity for acute interpretation of contemporary events and the depth of his learning about past international societies. This article examines his analysis of mid-twentieth century international relations, that 'Time of Troubles' which he believed would only be escaped through a recovery of 'creativity' and profound change in the ways in which world politics were practised. It explores the foundations of his approach to the field, demonstrated both in his Surveys of international affairs and his twelve volume magnum opus, A study of history, as well as his essays in journals. It analyses his diagnosis of the causes of our contemporary 'Time of Troubles', in the light of past episodes in world history Toynbee thought analogous to that present condition of international relations. And it traces his retreat from political solutions to the challenges faced in the twentieth century and his movement towards religious responses as a putative alternative. It concludes by arguing that Toynbee deserves recognition, not simply as a pioneering world historian or a controversial interpreter of the politics of the Middle East, but as an acute commentator on the international relations of a troubled age.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-36
    JournalInternational Affairs
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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