Toynbee Prize Foundation Announces New Leadership

Professor Dominic Sachsenmaier, a renowned scholar of Chinese and global history, will succeed Professor Raymond Grew as the President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation.

Named after Arnold J.Toynbee, the Toynbee Prize Foundation was chartered in 1987 “to contribute to the development of the social sciences, as defined from a broad historical view of human society and of human and social problems.” The foundation awards the prestigious Toynbee Prize for distinguished work in the social sciences – former recipients include William McNeill, Ralf Dahrendorf and Natalie Zemon Davis. In addition, the Foundation sponsors global history regular sessions at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, international conferences, the online Global History Forum, and the journal New Global Studies.

Currently a Professor of Modern Asian History at the Jacobs University in Bremen, Sachsenmaier also holds an active chair professorship at the Global History Center in Beijing. Before returning to Germany, his country of origin, Sachsenmaier held active faculty positions at Duke University as well as the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has played a key role in institutionalizing Sino-German academic exchanges, serving as a recurrent honorary chair professor in Global History in Beijing and running a program for visiting Chinese professors of social sciences and the humanities at Jacobs University.

Sachsenmaier has authored a wide range of books and articles. His main research interests include Sino-Western relations between the 17th and the 20th centuries as well as theories of global history. His most recent monograph is Global Perspectives on Global History. Theories and Approaches in a Connected World (Cambridge UP, 2011).

Professor Sachsenmaier said of the appointment: “I am truly honored to accept the presidency of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, and I look forward to collaborating with the board members and all the other people involved. I will do my very best to contribute to the Foundation’s promising paths. More specifically, I will seek to strengthen its ties to individual scholars and institutions outside the United States, including Europe and Asia.”

Sachsenmaier’s appointment will consolidate and build upon the achievements of outgoing Toynbee Prize Foundation President Raymond Grew, Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Grew is the author of several works on 19th century Italian and French social history, most notably A Sterner Plan for Italian Unity and School, State (1962), and Society: The Growth of Elementary Schooling in Nineteenth-Century France (1991). Throughout his career he has also written on comparative and global history, from his 1980 American Historical Review article “The Case for Comparing Histories” to a more recent edited volume on the construction of minorities across different times and societies. Grew has served as the President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation since 2006, a period marked by an upsurge in interest in global history in general, thanks in no small part to initiatives launched during Grew’s tenure.

Outgoing Toynbee Prize Foundation Vice-President Bruce Mazlish (who himself served as President from 1997-2006), commented on Grew’s leadership: “It is often said that continuing an enterprise is more difficult than founding it. This has been my experience with The Toynbee Foundation. However, Raymond Grew proved the maxim wrong. As President succeeding me, he has overseen the stability and then the expansion of the Foundation’s mission.” Under Grew’s leadership, the Foundation established its presence at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, where the winner of that year’s Toynbee Prize delivers a prize lecture. Grew also oversaw the reconstruction of the Toynbee Foundation’s website before convening over the election of his successor. At the same time, Grew has continued to author pieces on global history. “How he has managed to do all that he has,” commented Mazlish, “is something of a miracle.”

Fortunately, in taking over an organization that Grew has done so much to shape, Sachsenmaier will not be alone. He will be joined by incoming Vice-President Darrin McMahon, Professor of History at Dartmouth College. McMahon succeeds current Foundation Vice-President Bruce Mazlish, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

McMahon, a scholar of modern European intellectual and cultural history, has published numerous works on the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment. His 2006 book Happiness: A History, published by the Atlantic Monthly Press, was awarded Best Books of the Year honors by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and several others, and has been translated into twelve languages. McMahon is also the author of Divine Fury: A History of Genius, published by Basic Books in 2013, as well as the co-editor of the  volume Rethinking European Intellectual History for the Twenty-First Century.

Current president of the Foundation Raymond Grew commented: “The Trustees’ search committee should be congratulated for their selection of outstanding new officers. Building on the earlier initiative of Bruce Mazlish, the Foundation has in recent years greatly expanded its activity, especially with respect to the global study of global history. Professors Sachsenmaier and McMahon will take the Foundation to a new level in every respect.”

The appointment of Timothy Nunan as the Foundation’s Executive Director is another important change to the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s programs. He is  a historian with a strong interest in 20th century international history. He received his intellectual training to this point at Princeton, the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Corpus Christi College of the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. While at Oxford, he edited and published a translation of several of Carl Schmitt’s writings on internationalism, published as Writings on War by Polity in 2011. Having received his doctorate in History from Oxford, Nunan was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, where he re-wrote his dissertation on the history of international development in Cold War-era Afghanistan into a scholarly monograph.

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