Toynbee, a prolific author, was the nephew of a great economic historian, Arnold Toynbee, with whom he is sometimes confused. Born in London, Arnold J was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. He worked for the Foreign Office during both World War I and World War II. He was Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (1925-1955) and Research Professor of International History at the University of London.
The theory elaborated in A Study of History was of challenge-response as applied to a civilization, taken as unit. It has not perhaps proved of great influence on other historians; it certainly was taken up, for example by Curtius, as a sort of paradigm in the post-war period. The ideas he promoted had some vogue (he appeared on the Cover of Time magazine in 1947). Toynbee was probably most influential in relation to Asian thinkers. A few of his terms, such as successor state, and to a lesser extent external proletariat, are found in other authors.