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. Book Source: Digital Library of India Item : Huizinga, ioned. 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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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See joohan Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. This classic study of art, life, and thought in France and the Netherlands during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ranks as one of the most perceptive analyses of the medieval period. A brilliantly creative work that established saning reputation of Dutch historian John Thdthe book argues that the era of diminishing chivalry reflected the spirit of an This classic study of art, life, and thought in France and the Netherlands during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ranks as one of the most perceptive analyses of the medieval period.

A brilliantly creative work that established the reputation of Dutch historian John Huizingathe book argues that the era tbe diminishing chivalry reflected the spirit of an age and that its figures and events were neither a prelude to the Renaissance nor harbingers of miiddle coming culture, but a consummation of the old. Among other topics, the author examines the violent tenor of medieval life, the idea of chivalry, the conventions of love, religious life, the vision of death, the symbolism that pervaded medieval life, and aesthetic sentiment.

We view the late Middle Ages through the psychology and thought of artists, theologians, poets, court chroniclers, princes, and statesmen of the period, witnessing the splendor and simplicity of medieval life, its courtesy and cruelty, its idyllic vision of life, despair and mysticism, religious, artistic, and practical life, and much more. Long regarded johzn a mlddle of historical scholarship, The Waning of the Middle Ages is also a remarkable work of literature. Of its author, the New York Times said, “Professor Huizinga has dressed his imposing and variegated assemblage of facts in the colorful garments characteristic of novels, and he parades them from his first page to the last in a vivid style.

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Why read this text? This is an edited version. The more complete text is called ‘The Autumn of the Middle Ages. Kenneth I read this one because it’s the one I own in my personal library.

Bought it many years ago. Being retired, I read for my own pleasure and not for …more I read this one because it’s the one Huizing own in my personal library.

Being retired, I read for my own pleasure and not for research purposes. See 1 question about The Waning of the Middle Ages…. Lists with This Book.

Bought this by mistake thinking it was a book by Burckhardt, which was obviously pretty stupid as it clearly says Huizinga on the cover. But The Waning of waniny Middle Ages had been on my mind to read for some time view spoiler [ which is what Middke use in place of a reading wish list, the fallibility of human memory helps by winnowing down the near infinite possibilities of reading to something more humanly achievable hide spoiler ] so I surrendered to the serendipity.

The book is an attempt to creat Bought this by mistake thinking it was a book by Burckhardt, which was obviously pretty stupid as it clearly says Huizinga on the cover. The huizihga is an attempt to create a portrait of the age, specifically of the culture of the higher levels of society in Northern France and the Low Countries there is thd lot of focus on the court of the Dukes of Burgundy. So it is about what it was like to be alive then – how did people see the world, how did people behave, what was important to them, how did people express themselves and so on.

By it’s very nature this kind of study is always going to be unsuccessful. Just as at middle level a study of your culture based on a handful of memoirs, works of art and news reports will not capture the full experience and perception that you participate in as part of your culture. If you want a story, a yhe history that can pretend to tell you how things actually happened then this is not the book for you.


On the other hand for all it’s shortcomings if you are interested the idea of trying to understand how people in a distant time experienced their world then wanig is still a book well worth reading. Not that this is a dull journey of discovery, much of the exploration is through anecdote: Huizinga comes across as being very interested in Mentalitie and is an early wanong of that approach. I’m sure that in many ways his work has been superseded and its limited focus on the world between Rhine and Seine is apparent but it remains readable and full of autumnal flavours.

The Waning of the Middle Ages

View all 18 comments. We, at the present day, can hardly understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth, a soft bed, a glass of wine, were formerly enjoyed. The historians he discusses here Huizinga, Eileen Edna Power, Michael Postan, Carl Erdmann, Theodor Mommsen are not q We, at the present day, can hardly understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth, a soft bed, a glass of wine, were formerly enjoyed.

Cantor nevertheless has plenty of good things to say about Huizinga and the others. He writes that Huizinga had no successors, and the approach he adopted has found no significant imitators. The Waning of the Middle Ages is likely to appear on anyone’s list of the ten best books ever written on medieval history, and a plausible argument would place it near the top [it’s one of the all-time best sellers on the subject] … But Huizinga stands alone and remote from the ongoing dialogues in medieval studies.

In the short autobiography that he composed in the last wanlng of his life, he tells of writing Waning when he was told that his academic job was in jeopardy if he could not come up with a significant publishable book.

He retired for the summer to his mother-in-law’s farm, sat there in the “hot attic” with some material from agrs fifteenth century, and wrote the book before the fall called him back to the university. Huizinga writes in his brief preface to the English edition, History has always been far more engrossed by problems of origins than by those of decline and fall… in medieval history we have been searching so diligently for the origins of modern culture, that at times it would seem as though what we call the Middle Ages had been little more than the prelude to the Renaissance.

But in history, as ates nature, birth and death are equally balanced.

The Autumn of the Middle Ages – Wikipedia

The decay of overripe forms of civilization is as suggestive a spectacle as the growth of new ones. And it occasionally happens that a period in which one had, hitherto, been mainly looking for the coming to birth of new things, suddenly reveals itself as an epoch of fading and decay.

The present work deals with the history of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries regarded as a period of termination … Such a view presented itself to the author whilst endeavoring to arrive at a genuine understanding of the art of the brothers Van Eyck teh their contemporaries, that is to say, to grasp its meaning by seeing it hhe connection with the entire life of their times.

Now the common feature of the various manifestations of civilization of that epoch proved to be inherent rather in that which links them to the past than in the germs which they contain of the future. The significance, not of the artists alone, but also of theologians, posts, chroniclers, princes, and statesmen, could be best appreciated by considering them, not as the harbingers of a coming culture, but as perfecting and concluding the old.

Now, viewed thus by the author, it would seem that this thesis is not amenable to simple demonstration by testimony of historical document. When men and women write of art, or create art, the writings and creations themselves are always thrusting towards the future, and a historian interested in their connection to the past must oftentimes do his analysis from the distant future, bringing his creative imagination into play to find the connections with a past that was not the concern of the subjects being studied.

Thus, quite as much as the book was, in its inception and writing, not the typical heavily researched academic study, it is a work of the historical imagination.

Huizinga’s book was published in It’s Dutch title was Herfsttij der Middeleeuwenwhich translates directly to The Autumn of the Middle Ages an evocative enough title, to be sure. To me, the second title is even more wnaing. That word, waningalmost makes me catch by breath.


To write of the waning of an era in European history, an era which lasted several centuries, or by some reckonings, a thousand years, and to render the subject of the narrative as the fading away of this immense span of time, of human endeavor, xges art – of millions of lives slowly fading into huizingaa irrevocable past … well, I love the title. I’ll never toss the book, who could throw away that title from their bookshelf? Fourteen full page black and white illustrations, all works of art from the period, by Rogier van der Weyden, Jan Van Eyck, and others.

The equally long index however is very good. I like perusing an index to see names that are extensively referenced in the narrative.

Also many references to Roman de la Rose.

Book – The Waning of the Middle Ages – Letterenfonds

Following a group of these is in another spoiler the sometimes edited status that I submitted at that point in my read. Some of the status comments appear elsewhere in the review.

Huizinga’s thesis is that by looking at the Middle Ages as a precursor to what followed economically, politically, artisticallywe miss the essence of the end of the Middle Ages, as the people then living saw their own time – and that this view deserves study for its own sake. Interest waxed and waned elsewhere. Way more interesting than expected. Book now cluttered with underlining and notes. The Church in the Middle Ages tolerated many religious extravagances, provided they did not lead up to novelties of a revolutionary sort, in morals or in doctrine.

Long after the Middle Ages the collections of princes contained works of art mixed up indiscriminately with knick-knacks made of shells and of hair, wax statues of celebrated dwarfs … Time the destroyer has made it easy for us to separate pure art from all these geegaws and bizarre trappings … This separation … did not exist for the men of that time. Generally I found these somewhat difficult, particularly XXI. Both in form and in idea it is a product of the waning Middle Ages.

If certain historians of art have discovered Renaissance elements in it, it is because they have confounded, very wrongly, realism and Renaissance. Tne this scrupulous realism, this aspiration to render exactly all natural details, is the characteristic feature of the expiring Middle Ages.

It is the same tendency which we encountered in all the fields of thought of the epoch, a sign of decline and not of rejuvenation. The triumph of the Renaissance was to consist in replacing this meticulous realism by breadth and simplicity. The Greek gods have large wings outside their ermine mantles… Saturn devouring his children, Midas awarding the prize, huizingx simply ridiculous and devoid of all charm… we have come to the limit of the creative faculty of these artists.

Easily masters of their craft, so long as observation of reality is their guide, their mastery fails at once when imaginative creation of new motifs is called for. Imagination, both literary and artistic, had been led into a blind alley by allegory.

The contrast between suffering and joy, between adversity and happiness, appeared more striking Every event, every action, was still embodied in expressive and solemn forms, which raised them to the dignity of a ritual. For it was not merely the great facts of birth, wqning and death which, by the sacredness of the uohan, were raised to the rank of mysteries; incidents of less importance, like a journey, a task, a visit, were equally attended by a thousand formalities: Calamities and indigence were more afflicting than at present; it was more difficult to guard against them, and to find solace.

Illness and death presented a more striking contrast; the cold and darkness of winter were more real evils.

Honours and riches were relished with greater avidity and contrasted more vividly with surrounding misery. The diapason of life had not yet changed. Scholastic thought, with symbolism and strong formalism, the thoroughly dualistic conception of life and the world still dominated.

The two poles of the mind continued to be chivalry and hierarchy. Profound pessimism spread a general gloom over life. The gothic principle prevailed in art. But all these forms and modes were on the wane.

A high and strong culture is declining, but at the same time and in the same sphere new things are being born. The tide is turning, the tone of life is about to change.

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