Johan Huizinga

Johan Huizinga

Overview
Johan Huizinga (ˈjoːɦɑn ˈɦœyzɪŋɣaː) (December 7, 1872 - February 1, 1945), was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and one of the founders of modern cultural history
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

.

Born in Groningen as the son of Dirk Huizinga, a professor of physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after his birth, he started out as a student of Indo-Germanic languages, earning his degree in 1895.
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Encyclopedia
Johan Huizinga (ˈjoːɦɑn ˈɦœyzɪŋɣaː) (December 7, 1872 - February 1, 1945), was a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and one of the founders of modern cultural history
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

.

Life


Born in Groningen as the son of Dirk Huizinga, a professor of physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after his birth, he started out as a student of Indo-Germanic languages, earning his degree in 1895. He then studied comparative linguistics
Comparative linguistics
Comparative linguistics is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish their historical relatedness....

, gaining a good command of Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the role of the jester in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n drama in 1897.

It was not until 1902 that his interest turned towards medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 history. He continued teaching as an Orientalist until he became a Professor of General and Dutch History at Groningen University in 1905. In 1915, he was made Professor of General History at Leiden University
Leiden University
Leiden University , located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau and Leiden University still have a close...

, a post he held until 1942. That year, he spoke critically of his country's German occupiers, comments that were consistent with his writings about Fascism in the 1930s. From then until his death in 1945, he was held in detention by the Nazis
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. He died in De Steeg in Gelderland
Gelderland
Gelderland is the largest province of the Netherlands, located in the central eastern part of the country. The capital city is Arnhem. The two other major cities, Nijmegen and Apeldoorn have more inhabitants. Other major regional centers in Gelderland are Ede, Doetinchem, Zutphen, Tiel, Wijchen,...

, near Arnhem
Arnhem
Arnhem is a city and municipality, situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It is the capital of the province of Gelderland and located near the river Nederrijn as well as near the St. Jansbeek, which was the source of the city's development. Arnhem has 146,095 residents as one of the...

, just a few weeks before Nazi rule ended, and he lies buried in the graveyard of the Reformed Church at 6 Haarlemmerstraatweg in Oegstgeest
Oegstgeest
Oegstgeest is a town and municipality in the province of South Holland in the western Netherlands. Its population was 22,576 in 2008.-Location :...

.

Works


Huizinga had an aesthetic approach to history, where art and spectacle played an important part. His most famous work is The Autumn of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages, or The Waning of the Middle Ages, is the best-known work by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga....

(a.k.a. The Waning of the Middle Ages) (1919). He here reinterpreted the later Middle Ages as a period of pessimism
Pessimism
Pessimism, from the Latin word pessimus , is a state of mind in which one perceives life negatively. Value judgments may vary dramatically between individuals, even when judgments of fact are undisputed. The most common example of this phenomenon is the "Is the glass half empty or half full?"...

 and decadence
Decadence
Decadence can refer to a personal trait, or to the state of a society . Used to describe a person's lifestyle. Concise Oxford Dictionary: "a luxurious self-indulgence"...

 rather than rebirth
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

.

Worthy of mentioning are also Erasmus (1924) and Homo Ludens
Homo Ludens
Homo Ludens or "Man the Player" is a book written in 1938 by Dutch historian, cultural theorist and professor Johan Huizinga.It discusses the importance of the play element of culture and society....

(1938). In the latter book he discussed the possibility that play is the primary formative element in human culture. Huizinga also published books on American history and Dutch history in the 17th century.

Alarmed by the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Huizinga wrote several works of cultural criticism. Many similarities can be noted between his analysis and that of contemporary critics such as Ortega y Gasset and Oswald Spengler
Oswald Spengler
Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West , published in 1918, which puts forth a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations...

. Huizinga argued that the spirit of technical and mechanical organisation had replaced spontaneous and organic order in cultural as well as political life.

The Huizinga Lecture
Huizinga Lecture
The Huizinga Lecture is a prestigious annual lecture in the Netherlands about a subject in the domains of cultural history or philosophy. The lecture is in honour of Johan Huizinga, a distinguished Dutch historian who worked in the first half of the 20th century...

 (Dutch: Huizingalezing) is a prestigious annual lecture in the Netherlands about a subject in the domains of cultural history or philosophy in honour of Johan Huizinga.

Family


Huizinga's son Leonhard Huizinga became a well-known writer in the Netherlands, especially renowned for his series of tongue-in-cheek fiction novels on the Dutch aristocratic twins Adrian and Oliver ("Adriaan en Olivier").

External links