Huizinga, Johan(yōhän` hoi`zĭngə), 1872–1945, Dutch historian. He began his academic career in Indian literature, but his reputation rests on his work in the cultural history of the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Reformation. Huizinga's classic The Waning of the Middle Ages (tr. 1924) deals with the Low Countries and N France in the 14th and 15th cent. Huizinga considered the Renaissance the death of the Middle Ages rather than the birth of the modern world. Other notable works include Erasmus of Rotterdam (tr. 1954) and essays on the philosophy of history. In World War II he was imprisoned for his opposition to the Nazis.
Born Dec. 7, 1872, in Groningen; died Feb. 1, 1945, near Arnhem. Dutch cultural historian.
Huizinga was a professor at the universities of Groningen (1905–15) and Leiden (1915–40). During the fascist German occupation of the Netherlands, he was imprisoned in a concentration camp.
Huizinga won world renown for his works dealing with the history of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Western Europe: Erasmus (1924) and The Waning of the Middle Ages (1919). In the latter work, he uses an analysis of the Franco-Flemish culture of the Burgundian state in the 15th century to describe the essential features of medieval culture at the period when its decline had just begun.
Huizinga emphasized what was unique and concrete in the historical process and was skeptical about the possibility of formulating universal historical laws. However, in his chief work on the philosophy of culture, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1938), he proceeded from the category of “play” as the basic characteristic of every culture. The study of the role of ritual and other cultural phenomena was important for the development of semiotic and systemic approaches; however, Huizinga presented the play principle as if its role in different cultures was always identical. As a thinker with a liberal and humanistic orientation, Huizinga wrote regretfully about the decline of bourgeois Western civilization, suggesting a return to the old values. His works have been repeatedly republished and translated into many European languages.
WORKSVerzamelde werken, vols. 1–9, Haarlem, 1948–53.
REFERENCESAverintsev, S. S. “Kul’turologiia I. Kheizingi.” Voprosy filosofii, 1969, no. 3.
Kaegi, W. Das historische Werk Johan Huizingas. Leiden, 1947.
Köster, K. Johan Huizinga, 1872–1945, vol. 1, parts 1–2. Oberursel, 1947.
Vermeulen, E. E. G. Fruin en Huizinga over de wetenschap der geschiedenis. Arnhem, 1956.
Johan Huizinga, 1872–1972. (catalog). Groningen, 1973.
L. M. BATKIN