A Late and Ambivalent Recognition: (The Autumn of) Johan Huizinga and the French Historians of the Nouvelle Histoire

M. Greilsammer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The ascendency of Huizinga’s Herfsttij in French historiography today is an astonishing but established fact. This chapter tries to answer two basic questions. First, has the reception of Huizinga’s seminal book by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre and the successive generations of the Annales school and of the EHESS always been positive? Secondly, could Herfsttij be considered a pioneer work of the histoire des mentalités? My analysis demonstrates that Huizinga’s recognition in France was very ambivalent from the beginning. Despite many common elements between the two founders of the Annales school and the Dutch scholar, there were from the beginning serious dissonances between them. Bloch’s and Febvre’s reception of Huizinga’s work was quite different. Bloch had strong reservations about Huizinga’s vision, partly for personal reasons: Huizinga’s negative review of the Rois thaumaturges and of Feudal Society and some real rivalry because of Huizinga’s encroach-ment upon his own territory. But there were also theoretical reasons: Huizinga’s mistrust of psychological interpretations, his rejection of socioeconomic factors and his focus on the aristocracy and its court culture. Febvre had a more positive attitude toward Huizinga, since he did not feel as ‘threatened’ as his younger colleagu, not being himself a medievalist
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationRereding Huizinga
Subtitle of host publicationAutumn of the Middle Ages, a Century Later
EditorsPeter Arnade, Martha Howell, van der Lem Anton
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherUniversity of Amsterdam Press
ISBN (Electronic)9789462983724
ISBN (Print)9048534097
StatePublished - 2019


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