Arnold Toynbee - Encyclopedia

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ARNOLD TOYNBEE (1852-1883), English social reformer and economist, second son of Joseph Toynbee (1815-1866), a distinguished surgeon, was born in London on the 23rd of August 185 2. He had originally intended to enter the army, but ill health and a growing love of books changed his plans, and he settled down to read for the bar. Here again the same causes produced a change of purpose, and he entered as a student at Pembroke College, Oxford. Finding himself by no means at ease in that college he migrated after two years to Balliol College. Continued ill health prevented his reading for honours, but he made so deep an impression on the authorities of his college that on taking his degree he was appointed lecturer and tutor to students preparing for the Indian civil service. He devoted himself to the study of economics and economic history. He was active also as a practical social reformer, taking part in much public work and delivering lectures in the large industrial centres on economic problems. He overtaxed his strength, and after lecturing in London in January 1883 he had a complete break-down, and died of inflammation of the brain at Wimbledon on the 9th of March.

Toynbee had a striking influence on his contemporaries, not merely through his intellectual powers, but by his strength of character. He left behind him a beautiful memory, filled as he was with the love of truth and an ardent and active zeal for the public good. He was the author of some fragmentary pieces, published after his death by his widow, under the title of The Industrial Revolution. This volume deserves attention both for its intrinsic merit and as indicating the first drift of a changing method in the treatment of economic problems. He, however, fluctuated considerably in his opinion of the Ricardian political economy, in one place declaring it to be a detected "intellectual imposture," whilst elsewhere, apparently under the influence of Bagehot, he speaks of it as having been in recent times "only corrected, re-stated, and put into the proper relation to the science of life," meaning apparently, by this last, general sociology. He saw that the great help in the future for the science of economics must come from the historical method, to which in his own researches he gave preponderant weight. Toynbee's interest in the poor and his anxiety to be personally acquainted with them led to his close association with the district of Whitechapel in London, where the Rev. Canon S. A. Barnett was at that time vicar - an association which was commemorated after his death by the social settlement of Toynbee Hall, the first of many similar institutions erected in the East End of London for the purpose of uplifting and brightening the lives of the poorer classes.

See F. C. Montague's Arnold Toynbee (Johns Hopkins University Studies, 1889); Lord Milner's Arnold Toynbee: a Reminiscence (1901); and L. L. Price's Short History of Political Economy in England for a criticism of Toynbee as an economist.

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