The Autumn of the Middle Ages

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The Autumn of the Middle Ages cover

The Autumn of the Middle Ages, or The Waning of the Middle Ages (published in 1919 as Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen and translated into English in 1924), is the best-known work by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga.

Its subtitle is: "A study of the forms of life, thought and art in France and the Netherlands in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries".

In the book, Huizinga presents the idea that the exaggerated formality and romanticism of late medieval court society was a defense mechanism against the constantly increasing violence and brutality of general society. He saw the period as one of pessimism, cultural exhaustion, and nostalgia, rather than of rebirth and optimism.

Huizinga's work later came under criticism, especially for relying too heavily on evidence from the rather exceptional case of the Burgundian court. A new English translation of the book was published in 1996 because of perceived deficiencies in the original translation, although the new translation itself was criticized for being based on a German translation of the original Dutch book.


  • Bouwsma, William J (1974), "The Waning of the Middle Ages", Daedalus, 103 (1): 35–43 .
  • Peters, Edward; Simons, Walter P (1999), "The New Huizinga and the Old Middle Ages", Speculum, 74: 587–62, doi:10.2307/2886762 .

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