Saber and Scroll


Heir to the cultural history historiography tradition of Herodotus, Johan Huizinga is an ideal representative of one of the two forms of cultural history that developed in northern Europe during the latter part of the nineteenth century. According to Bentley’s classification of nineteenth century cultural history in “Culture and Kultur,” Huizinga belongs to the camp that sought to comprehend the past “from the history of art and literature as keys to understanding social perception and the limits of a period’s sense of itself.” Huizinga follows in the footsteps of the great Swiss historian, Jacob Burckhardt, whose work The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy provides “cross-sections dealing with aspects of the Renaissance environment . . . in a new literature concerned with ‘the daily course of human life.’” Huizinga’s own landmark work of cultural history, Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen: Studie over levens- en gedachtenvormen der veertiende en vifftiende eeuw in Frankrijk en de Nederlanden, originally written in 110 Dutch, has since been published in sixteen languages. This research paper will attempt to trace the historiographical influences that shaped Huizinga’s work, to place his writing in the broader tradition of cultural history, and to link Huizinga’s work to the New Cultural History movement of the late twentieth century.

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