MARCH OF HISTORY – 4 (Post No.8257)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8257

Date uploaded in London – – – 29 June 2020   

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R. Nanjappa

Society as the basis of History

 This is an obvious point which all the loony historians of the left and their comrades in the academy are trying to obscure. The doyen among modern historians, Arnold Toynbee held that world history consists of the history of “societies” and not nations, and he identified five living societies and two fossilised ones as constituting world history. Analysing the Western society, he pointed out how it extended backwards, almost indefinitely.

In tracing its history back to its origins, we strike upon the last phase of another society, the origins of which obviously lie much farther back in the past. The continuity of history, to use an accepted phrase, is not a continuity such as is exemplified in the life of a single individual. It is rather a continuity made up of the lives of successive generations, our Western Society being related to Hellenic Society in a manner comparable with the relationship of a child to its parent.

……….the intelligible unit of historical study is neither a nation state nor mankind as a whole but a certain grouping of humanity which we have called a society. We have discovered five such societies in existence today, together with sundry fossilised evidences of societies dead and gone.

Toynbee identified five such ‘living ‘ societies- which he said had been much the same as in 775 AD!.These are:

  • Western Christendom
  • Orthodox Christian Society of South-Eastern Europe and Russia
  • An Islamic Society covering North Africa and Middle East
  • A Hindu Society in the tropical subcontinent of India
  • A Far-Eastern Society

What exactly happens then in history? Says Toynbee:

The forces in action are not national but proceed from wider causes….Different parts are differently affected  by an identical general cause….A society , we may say, is confronted in the course of its life by a succession of problems which each member has to solve for itself as best it may.The presentation of each problem is a challenge to undergo an ordeal,and through this series of ordeals the members of the society progressively differentiate themselves from one another.

 So, history is basically how societies meet the challenges faced by them.

In the struggle for existence the West has driven its contemporaries  to the wall and entangled them in the meshes of its economic and political ascendancy, but it has not yet disarmed them of their distinctive cultures. Hard pressed though they are, they can still call their souls their own.

(These extracts are taken from the Introduction to Vol.I of the two volume abridgement by D.C.Somervell ( Oxford University Press) of the original six volume edition of ‘A Study of History’. As this abridgement was carefully revised and approved by Toynbee himself, it is authoritative.)

This was written more than 80 years ago, in 1933! And how accurately  has Toynbee  identified the problem: the struggle for ascendancy and domination by the West! And in these eight decades, West has lost its direct political domination, but not its military and economic domination and control- it continues to exploit the rest of the world and its resources for its own advantage. And in these years, it is only Islam which has been able to challenge and slow down, though not entirely halt, the march of the West. Even communism has failed- at least so far.

Challenge to India

 This has posed a serious challenge to India- not as a nation but in the sense of Toynbee, as the Hindu society. India won a famous victory against the British. And in spite of having agreed to Partition, India does not even call itself Hindu any more, and it faces both the Abrahamic  outfits, which have not diluted their basic aim- which is conversion and conquest. It is fast   

 westernising itself, and in that sense seems to be losing its soul, contrary to what Toynbee said.

This is where India seems to be losing its sense of direction as well. Twenty five years before Toynbee, Mahatma Gandhi identified the problem facing India as due to modern civilisation, coming to us through England and hence identified as Western civilisation. He called his solution “Hind Swaraj”.

Alas, there is neither Hind nor Swaraj there to day! India is ‘secular’, not Hind. Most educated Hindus do not think of India as a civilisation. And Swaraj is replaced by formal submission to western domination through  IMF, World Bank, and WTO!  India today is not entirely free to order its own economic life.

May Gandhiji’s soul rest in peace!


1.Will Durant called his monumental 11 volume study of Western history as “The Story of Civilization”. But even he began with the history of the Orient. History is how civilisations have risen, survived and fallen or died.  In this connection, two quotes from Durant are worth remembering.

Regarding the Mughal conquest of India, he says:
The bitter lesson that may be drawn from this tragedy is that eternal vigilance is the price of civilization. A nation must love peace, but must keep its powder dry.

Regarding the Roman conquest of Greece, he says:

the essential cause of the Roman conquest of Greece was the disintegration of  Greek civilization from within. No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself.

The history of a nation is thus the story of its civilisation. This is a theme made famous recently by Samuel Huntington through his book ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ as he views the current conflicts in the world as between different civilizations. 

2. Many things happened in the past with which we may not agree today. Ancient Greece, famed for its democracy, functioned on the basis of slaves. The American Declaration of Independence boldly announced that “all men are created equal”, but many of the participants in the process did have slaves! They were victims of the times. It is not proper to judge them in the light of today’s ideas. We have arrived here, sitting on their very shoulders! We have prospered or progressed because we have learned from them! Secondly, we should not hate any one, on the basis of what happened in the past. We are all slaves of the ideas which rule us at a given time, and it won’t be proper to hate any one because they did things with which we disagree today! 


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