Johan Huizinga

Johan Huizinga (December 7, 1872 - February 1, 1945), a Dutch historian, was one of the founders of modern cultural history. Born in Groningen, he started out as a student of Comparative linguistics, gaining a good command of Sanskrit. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the role of the jester in Indian drama in 1897. It was not until 1902 that his interest turned towards medieval and Renaissance history. He continued teaching as an Orientalist until he became a Professor of General and Dutch History at Groningen University in 1905. Then, in 1915, he was made Professor of General History at Leiden University, a post he held until 1942. From this point until his death in 1945 he was held in detention by the Nazis. He died in De Steeg in Gelderland, near Arnhem, and lies buried in the graveyard of the Reformed Church at 6 Haarlemmerstraatweg in Oegstgeest.

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 (a.k.a. The Waning of the Middle Ages) (1919). He here reinterprets the later Middle Ages as a period of pessimism and decadence rather than rebirth.

Worthy of mentioning are also Erasmus (1924) and Homo Ludens (1938). In the latter book he discusses the influence of play on European culture. Huizinga also published books on American history and Dutch history in the 17th century.


  • Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen (1919) translated as The Waning of the Middle Ages (1924) and as The Autumn of the Middle Ages (1996).
  • Erasmus of Rotterdam (1924)
  • Homo Ludens (1938)
  • Geyl, P. and F.W.N. Hugenholtz (eds.), Dutch Civilization in the Seventeenth Century and Other Essays (1968)
  • Holmes, J.S. and H. Van Marle (eds.), Men and Ideas (1970)
  • America: A Dutch Historian's Vision, From Afar and Near (1972)


  • Van Ditzhuijzen, Jeannette (September 9 2005). Bijna vergeten waren ze, de rustplaatsen van roemruchte voorvaderen. Trouw (Dutch newspaper), p. 9 of supplement.

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