Burckhardt, Jakob

Burckhardt, Jakob

 

Born May 25, 1818, in Basel; died there Aug. 8, 1897. Swiss cultural historian and philosopher.

Burckhardt studied at the University of Berlin under L. Ranke and was a university professor in Basel from 1858 to 1893. Burckhardt was the initiator of a school in historiography that, in contrast to the Ranke school, brought to the foreground not political history but the history of spiritual culture. (Sometimes Burckhardt’s school is called the cultural-historical school.) As a cultural historian, Burckhardt dealt with problems of ancient Greece, the Renaissance, and the baroque. His principal work, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860; in Russian translation, vols. 1-2, 1904-06), provides a number of vivid pictures of the cultural life of the Renaissance, organized around the constant idea of Renaissance individualism, in which Burckhardt uncovers the sources of the new European bourgeois world perception. By the end of his life Burckhardt was arriving at increasingly pessimistic conclusions regarding the prospects for the existence of liberal societal forms and a free spiritual personality in the late bourgeois epoch; Burckhardt’s criticism of culture is one of the links between Romanticism and the predictions of a new barbarism by Nietzsche (on whom the late Burckhardt had an influence) and Spengler.

REFERENCES

Gramsci, A. Izbr. proizv., vol. 3. Moscow, 1959. Pages 271-74, 291.
Kaegi, W. Jacob Burckhardt, vols. 1-2. Basel [1947-50].

S. S. AVERINTSEV

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