Men and Ideas

Men and Ideas: History, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance

Essays by Johan Huizinga
James S. Holmes
Hans van Marle
Copyright Date: 1959
Pages: 382
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  • Book Info
    Men and Ideas
    Book Description:

    This collection by the distinguished Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) reflects the theme of its key essay, The Task of Cultural History," throughout its pages. Huizinga's conception of cultural history informs both his essays on historiographic questions and those on such figures as John of Salisbury, Abelard, Joan of Arc, Erasmus, and Grotius.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5808-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
    (pp. 9-14)
    Bert F. Hoselitz

    A look at a portrait of Johan Huizinga might lead one to think that he had been a successful Dutch lawyer or business man rather than one of the foremost innovators in history which this century has produced. His face is placid and open and has an air of ease and serenity. There is nothing intense about his features and though his expression reflects a thoughtful mind and moral force, it does not appear to be that of a man of quite uncommon creativity and imagination.

    Huizinga’s life was almost as commonplace as his outward appearance. He comes from a...

      (pp. 17-76)

      In the theses that it requires to accompany a doctoral dissertation, Dutch law has retained a relic of an earlier era of learning. Posting and defending theses is an activity that belongs to the days of Abelard, the days of Luther. In the medieval university the thesis and the disputation were the natural media for formulating questions of scholarship. They fitted in that system as intellectual vehicles and in that sphere as spiritual forms. The medieval university was in the full sense of the word an arena, a palaestra, completely parallel to the lists of the tournaments. In it one...

      (pp. 77-96)

      You have perhaps come here with the thought that there is only one possible subject for a person who has insights into world history to profess at this point in time: the historical background of the World War. If this is so, I shall disappoint you, for that is not my subject. If I summon up for a moment the winds that the war has chased through your minds, it will be in spite of myself. It is not the historian’s task to speak in the storm like Demosthenes, and the clear day when he can watch nations and states...

      (pp. 97-156)

      In the ominous present there are two forces that, for good or evil, are straining and convulsing the world organism like a fever. One of them is patriotism, the will to maintain and defend what is one’s own and cherished, a will that, at present, is everywhere and every day being put to the most severe test, in violent combat and patient service. The other is nationalism, the powerful drive to dominate, the urge to have one’s own nation, one’s own state assert itself above, over, and at the cost of others.

      Patriotism, says the fool within us all, is...

      (pp. 159-177)

      In the spring of 1930 I brought together—from the material for a study of the spirit of the twelfth century which I had begun earlier and then dropped for the nonce—three personalities for a series of three lectures at the Sorbonne under the title “Trois esprits prégothiques.” The three were Abelard, whose personality I attempted to approach in the intellectual sphere, John of Salisbury, who appealed to me particularly in the ethical sphere, and Alain de Lille, that extremely striking representative of the twelfth century, in the aesthetic sphere. At present only the study of the last of...

      (pp. 178-195)

      In a series of three lectures some years ago I characterized three figures of the twelfth century as “pre-Gothic minds”—without wishing to attach any excessive significance to that term. The three were Abelard, John of Salisbury, and Alain de Lille. What I attempted to approach through them was the spirit of the extraordinarily creative twelfth century, as it was reflected in Abelard’s intellectual attitude, John of Salisbury’s ethical attitude, and Alain de Lille’s aesthetic attitude. The material on the last of the three, the poet-theologian, I developed into an extensive monograph,¹ and I presented my views on John of...

      (pp. 196-206)

      I would be at a loss to be in your midst, and to speak at this general assembly, if I were not permitted to refer to the great honor bestowed on the University of Leiden (which I have the privilege to represent) by your invitation. It is now some months since a French scholar, in his Sorbonne dissertation, reminded us of the debt the University of Leiden owes to France. Actually we had not forgotten it; how would it be possible to forget the names of Scaliger, Doneau, Rivet, and Saumaise, who lent luster to Leiden and Holland? It is...

      (pp. 207-240)

      If there had been one miracle too few to warrant the canonization of Joan of Arc, it might have been brought forward that she has been able to wipe the grimace from Shaw’s joking countenance and to force that acrobat, eternally turning somersaults about the crossbar of his ingenuity, to his knees for a moment. No one has the right to demand from the master of satiric comedy that he should refrain from every witticism and comic effect throughout a sixty-two-page Preface and a performance of three hours and a half. But, even aside from the effect of the play...

      (pp. 243-287)

      At the sound of the word “Renaissance” the dreamer of past beauty sees purple and gold. A festive world is bathed in mild clarity, rustling with sonorous tones. People move with grace and solemnity, untroubled by the distress of time and the beckonings of eternity. Everything is one ripe, full exuberance.

      The questioner says: Explain it in more detail. And the dreamer stammers: the Renaissance is altogether positive, and it is undoubtedly in the key of C major. The questioner smiles. Then the dreamer recalls the things that he has learned determine the historical phenomenon we call the Renaissance —its...

      (pp. 288-309)

      If we would still be content with Burckhardt’s formula for the understanding of the Renaissance, the interrelationship of the two concepts “Renaissance” and “realism” would be a cut-and-dried affair. It still seems to be so for many people. If one understands by realism the need and the skill to approximate the natural reality of things as closely as possible in word or image, and if the Renaissance means the discovery of the world and of man, the rise of a personal, direct view and conception of reality, it would seem to follow that realism can only be a corollary to...

      (pp. 310-326)

      Some time after Erasmus had taken up residence in Basel there came the suggestion from Zurich that he should settle there and acquire citizenship of the town. He declined the suggestion with the argument that he preferred to be a citizen of the whole world, not of one single town. Zurich remained alien to him, however lively his intellectual contact with Zwingli may at times have been. Basel became the town to be forever linked with his memory. The day before yesterday we stood beside his tomb here at Basel. Surrounding us were the same objects on which his eyes...

      (pp. 327-342)

      Every Dutch child obtains his earliest notions of history from the seventeenth century. The golden age of the Netherlands provides the morning meal for his mind. His sense of the past is nourished on Prince William and Jan De Witt, Ruyter and Tromp. It all seems to him as clear and simple as the red, white, and blue of the flag. He understands the period and loves it.

      Later comes Rembrandt, with a host of his fellows. They are fitted into the child’s picture, illuminating and elevating it. The poets present themselves: Jakob Cats finds his place, and Gerbrand Bredero,...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 343-370)
    (pp. 371-378)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 379-379)