The Outstater

May 13, 2024

A Forgotten Man and a Forgotten History

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” — Hegel

I AM NOT A BIG SOCIAL MEDIA GUY (too old), but last week I ran across a Twitter thread that is the most succinct description of Arnold Toynbee’s great “A Study of History.”

The thread was posted by Thinking West, a group that promotes the study of the western canon, classical approaches to education and commentary on history, philosophy, culture, education and religion. I offer it to the membership, hoping that some of you will print it out and save it in your binders.

First, some background. Post-modern academia canceled Toynbee when it realized that he did not divide all history into the oppressed and the oppressors. Today, you would have a hard time finding anyone under age 50 on a university campus who has ever heard of him.

That is too bad for us because Toynbee’s work, published from 1934 to 1961, based on his survey of 29 civilizations in a 12-volume set of three million words and about 7,000 pages plus 412 pages of indices, has proven both definitive and prescient. “Toynbee was eerily right about what has happened in the West after his death,” said the political scientist Charles Murray recently. “But his kind of history wasn’t fashionable by the 1960s.”

You can judge for yourself from the Thinking West outline below. If you dare, check the points that particularly apply to 2024:


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