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The Waning of the Middle Ages

4.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 080-0759404438
ISBN-10: 0486404439
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Dutch

About the Author

Johan Huizinga is one of the most imporatant historians of the twentieth century. He was Professor of General History at the University of Leyden. While he is best-known for this book, his biography, ERASMUS OF ROTTERDAM, is unsurpassed. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (May 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486404439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486404431
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Though this book is absolutely excellent (though the style takes a little getting used to), it shouldn't be the first book you read on the Middle Ages.

I say that not so much because the book is difficult, as because it's elliptical. The book has a lot of discussion about themes prevalent in the art and literature of the later Middle Ages, but it's not a "history": it doesn't tell you what happened.

For example, to make a point about fastidious medieval protocol, Huizinga relates an anecdote about the battle of Crecy. But he never explains what the battle was, who fought in it, or why it was important. He assumes you already know that stuff, so don't come to this book looking for a more straightforward history. This is more a discussion of the major themes and movements of the age, divided by chapter.

Another thing you should know: the lion's share of the discussion in the book has to do with the low countries.
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Format: Paperback
I first read this book 25 years ago in college. At the time, it was one of those book I just wanted to get through for a grade, but there were details of it I remembered, such as the common practice of sllicing apples into thirds to represent the Trinity.
Well, picking up this book to re-read while living in Europe turned out to be a far greater pleasure than I imagined. Huizinga offers an elegant portrait of an entire era, the Late Middle Ages, in both visual and intellectual detail. You learn about codes of honor, the different ways in which life was perceived, and the practices of love. It is beautifully written and vivid.
There are limitation to the approach, of course. It is not about economics or living standards. It does not function as a survey, and hence the reader must have solid knowledge of medieval history before starting the book. You will have to get these elsewhere. But if you come to this book with the right expectations, it is fascinating and wonderful from cover to cover.
Warmly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Written originally in dutch in 1919 (the first english translation appeared in 1924), this is a classic of medieval historiography. Huizinga's main thesis goes something like this: the black death of the late 1340s, which decimated European population, brought as a result a morbid sensibility to European culture. It meant also a return to religion, as the cult and veneration of saints grew enormously during the last half of the 13th century and throughout the 14th century. This would bring in excesses of its own, and would lead the way for the reformation of the 15th century to counter it. But the book is more than just the lay out of this thesis, as Huizinga show us the daily life and thoughts of the late middle ages (based mostly from french and flemish sources) in a very vivid way.
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Format: Paperback
How many of us can clearly remember specific ideas from the books we read as undergrads in the mad rush of our youth? But in reflective moments I find myself turning over one more time the chief idea discussed in the abridged paperback translation of this work: that Chivalry was an "aesthetical ideal", praised and alluded to everywhere in the European art and politics of the Middle Ages, yet practiced by few. I've learned to see much of the stock language of art, politics, and diplomacy of our own time through the model of the "aesthetical ideal": democracy, peace, and equality fit the concept. A good idea is worth the price of a book...
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Format: Paperback
This book deserves more than 5 stars. I can't believe it out of print! It must be because of the new and rather sterile translation: the Autumn of the Middle Ages. The new translation leaves me cold. The Waning of the Middle Ages made a very deep impression on me in college. It is one of the few books that I have read completely through twice (not simply read portions of later)...I will refer back to it for the rest of my life. It is a splended fusion of literature and historical vision. Everyone I know who studied any medieval history was asigned this work and loves it still. Everyone remembers the openning phrase, "When the world was half a thousand years younger..." Today's students should be able to obtain this marvelous gem.
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Format: Paperback
It has been over 30 years since I first was enchanted by this book. I have read it at least twice since then and it is never far from my thoughts. The observations about the 15th Century that Huizinga made over 70 years ago have an immediacy to the world that we live in today. When the phenomenon of Madonna and her secular and semi-sacreligious use of Catholic imagery burst on the scene, I immediately recalled Huizinga (though it was maybe 15 years since I had read the book). This book along with Erich Auerbach's Mimesis are giants of the 20th Century's understanding of the past. Any educated person should be familiar with this book.
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Format: Paperback
This book stands out most as an example of what happens when history goes beyond a mere recounting of linear events, and takes the brave step of actually synthesizing information. The book serves to train readers to look at a another epoch on its own terms and through the eyes of that epoch's people. Those who criticize the book for using "dated" scholarship miss the point. This work has earned the right to be exempt from the passing and pretentious fads of modern scholarship. Just read it and enjoy the insights.
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