WILLIAM J. BOUWSMA. The Waning of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga. We have come a long way since Bury informed us so firmly that history is a science. Brilliant study of art, life and thought in France and the Netherlands during the 14th and 15th centuries explores the period’s splendor and simplicity, courtesy. The Waning of the Middle Ages has ratings and reviews. Jan-Maat said : Bought this by mistake thinking it was a book by Burckhardt, which was ob.

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Johan Huizinga, who was later to become famous for his studies concerning the Waning of the Middle Ages, was born in Groningen in He was educated there and in Leipzig, Germany.

His initial academic training waming as a linguist – he studied Dutch language and literature in Groningen from until when hhuizinga wrote his doctoral dissertation under the supervision of the classical scholar J. Huizinga shifted his interest towards historical studies however, with a particular emphasis on studies as a Cultural historian in line with the school established by Jacob Burckhardt. After teaching in Haarlem and Amsterdam, he became professor of history at the University of Groningen in and at the Leiden University in His most famous work is The Waning of the Middle Agespublished in trans.

This work, which is celebrated for its imddle literary quality and historical penetration, focuses on the 14th and 15th hujzinga in France and the Low Countries as exemplifying the last phase of the Middle Ages and discusses many aspects of medieval life: Huizinga describes how medieval piety often found expression in rituals and external forms.

The Waning of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga

The Middle Ages are also discusses in his collection of essays Men and Ideas. One of these called, “The Task of Cultural History,” argues that history should resurrect the past, and should give the reader a sense of what it was like to be alive during a particular period. Huizinga deplores the modern tendency to write romanticized history and romanticized biography, to try to make history entertaining and amusing holding that “No literary effect in the world can compare to the pure, sober taste of history.


Much of this book is written not for the general reader, but for fellow Dutchmen and contemporaries. His preoccupation with the Netherlands reminds one of Ortega’s preoccupation with Spain. In an essay called, “The Huizinva Element in Historical Thought,” Huizinga declares that he has “faith in the importance of the aesthetic element in historical mkddle and that he opposes the idea that history should attempt wanning be scientific.

The true study of history involves our imagination and conjures up conceptions, pictures, visions.

It discusses the problems besetting the West, from moral anarchy to artistic decadence. Though it sometimes reminds one of Ortega’s Revolt of the Massesits less pertinent to our time than Ortega’s work since much of it is a criticism of Fascism.

It is, however, an interesting, brief and readable book, it argues that that modern education and the mass media both have harmful effects on culture: Literature tge painting are held to have become increasingly unintelligible – poetry is represented as having maintained throughout history “a certain connection with rational expression It is not until the closing years of the [nineteenth] century that one sees poetry purposely steering its course away from reason.

They consider American history beforeand they also look at modern society in general, including newspapers, movies hte literature. Special attention is paid to the economic forces that have shaped American history. In many of Huizinga’s works, he discusses the play element in culture.

: The Waning of the Middle Ages (): Johan Huizinga: Books

Finally, when his life was drawing to a close, and he was a prisoner of the Nazis, he collected his thoughts on this subject into a book called Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Homo Ludens contains some very interesting ideas, but it presents these ideas in a rather dry and scholarly manner.

He argues that play is one of fundamental facts of human life, and is at the root of poetry, music, philosophy – even jurisprudence and war. Anyone interested in plumbing the depths of human nature, anyone interested in the question of why people fight wars, create culture, etc. Huizinga is discussing more than play, he is discussing human nature, the fundamental drives within human nature – “The spirit of playful competition is, as a social impulse, older than culture itself and pervades all life like a veritable ferment.


Ritual grew up in sacred play; poetry was born in play and nourished on play; music and dancing were pure play We have to conclude, therefore, that civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play From until his death in Johan Huizinga was held in detention by the Nazis. Popular European History pages at Age-of-the-Sage Several pages on our site, treating with aspects of nineteenth century European history, have been favored with some degree of popularity, rank highly in some search engines, and receive many visitors.

The preparation of these pages was greatly influenced by a particular “Philosophy of History” as suggested by this quote from the famous Essay “History” by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Of the works of this mind history is the record.

Its genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate events.

The Waning Of The Middle Ages

But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time.

A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold agees.

More insights into this “Philosophy of History” as recommended by Emerson, and the history pages so-prepared, are available to those sufficiently interested, from the links further down this page: