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Johan Huizinga.

Johan Huizinga (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈɦœyzɪŋɣaː]; December 7, 1872 – February 1, 1945), was a Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history.


Huizinga plaque at Leiden University

Born in Groningen as the son of Dirk Huizinga, a professor of physiology, and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after his birth,[1] he started out as a student of Indo-Germanic languages, earning his degree in 1895. He then studied 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. In 1915, he was made Professor of General History at Leiden University, a post he held until 1942. Huizinga was guest at the 1937 wedding of Juliana of the Netherlands with Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld.[2]

In 1942, 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. He died in De Steeg in Gelderland, near Arnhem, just a few weeks before Nazi rule ended, and he lies buried in the graveyard of the Reformed Church at 6 Haarlemmerstraatweg in Oegstgeest.[3]


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 reinterpreted the Late 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 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. 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 (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.[4]


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").


  • Mensch en menigte in America (1918), translated by Herbert Rowen as America; A Dutch historian's vision, from afar and near (Part 1) (1972)
  • 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), translated by Frederik Hopman as Erasmus and the Age of Reformation (1924)
  • Amerika Levend en Denkend (1926), translated by H.H. Rowen as America: A Dutch Historian's Vision, from Afar and Near (Part 2) (1972)
  • Leven en werk van Jan Veth (1927)
  • Cultuurhistorische verkenningen (1929)
  • In de schaduwen van morgen (1935), translated by his son Jacob Herman Huizinga In the Shadow of Tomorrow
  • De wetenschap der geschiedenis (1937)
  • Geschonden wereld (1946, published posthumously)
  • Homo Ludens. Versuch einer Bestimmung des Spielelements der Kultur (1939), translated as Homo Ludens, a study of the play element in culture (1955)
  • Nederland's beschaving in de zeventiende eeuw (1941). Translated by Arnold Pomerans as Dutch civilisation in the seventeenth century (1968)
  • Men and ideas. History, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance. Essays (1959). Translations by James S. Holmes and Hans van Marle of parts of Huizinga's Collected Works


  1. ^ Johan Huizinga, books and writers
  2. ^ "Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands & Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld -1937". Royal Forums. 
  3. ^ Van Ditzhuijzen, Jeannette (September 9, 2005). Bijna vergeten waren ze, de rustplaatsen van roemruchte voorvaderen. Trouw (Dutch newspaper), p. 9 of supplement.
  4. ^ Huizinga-lezing, Universiteit Leiden 

Further reading[edit]

  • Willem Otterspeer: Reading Huizinga. Amsterdam University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-90-8964-180-9
  • Jo Tollebeek: "At the crossroads of nationalism: Huizinga, Pirenne and the Low Countries in Europe," European Review of History (2010) 17#2 pp 187–215
  • Donald R. Kelley: Fortunes of history. Historical inquiry from Herder to Huizinga. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-09578-3
  • Johan Huizinga 1872-1972. Papers delivered to the Johan Huizinga Conference Groningen 11-15 december 1972. Ed. by W.R.H. Koops ... [et al.] The Hague, Nijhoff, 1973. ISBN 90-247-1609-8

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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56 news items

Irish Independent

Irish Independent
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 05:11:15 -0700

The title was inspired by Homo Ludens, a highly influential book by Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga. Homo Ludens translates as "Man The Player", or "Playing Man'". Johnny revealed lead single Easy Money, which will be released on ...
The Quietus
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 06:30:00 -0700

He adds that the album's name is inspired by Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga's 1938 book Homo ludens. Marr will be touring the UK in support of the record, starting off at The Engine Shed in Lincoln on October 13; head to his website for full ...
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:56:15 -0700

Fans of the Smiths had to wait three decades for the first solo album by legendary guitarist Johnny Marr, but they won't have to wait nearly as long for the second. Marr announced he'll release his sophomore solo album, 'Playland,' on Oct. 7. Featuring ...
Broadway World
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:22:30 -0700

The title "Playland" is inspired by Homo Ludens, a 1938 book by the highly influential Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga, which explores the concept of play as a precursor and principal element of cultural development. One of Marr's favorite ...


Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:15:00 -0700

The guitarist also explained that the album's title is inspired by Homo Ludens, a book from Dutch historian and theorist Johan Huizinga. "The album's main themes are the atmosphere of the city, and the preoccupations of the people who live in them ...


Mon, 21 Jul 2014 05:56:15 -0700

Marr goes on to say that the album is inspired by a 1938 book, Homo ludens, by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga which "explores the concept of play as a principal element of cultural development". "It's important to sound like your environment," says ...
Zoiks! Online
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:15:00 -0700

Johnny Marr has announced the release date for his second solo effort 'Playland,' which is set for October 7th via Warner Music Group and available for pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon. Last year, the legendary guitarist for The Smiths enjoyed a ...


Mon, 21 Jul 2014 04:48:45 -0700

... 'Homo Ludens', a highly influential book by Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga. 'Homo Ludens' translates as 'Man The Player', or 'Playing Man'. As with 'The Messenger', it was produced by Marr and his co-producer/band member ...

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