Harvest of Death: Johan Huizinga’s Critique of Medievalism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Johan Huizinga conceptualized and composed his masterpiece during World War I, a great war fought on medieval battlegrounds and on the very soil of the Burgundian borderlands whose decadent culture he had devoted himself to excavating. This chapter investigates the ways that Huizinga’s Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen functions as a critique of medieval-ism as it had developed in the decades prior to the war and during the war itself. Writing in the neutral Netherlands, and yet strongly attuned to the unfolding events around him, Huizinga both explicitly and implicitly sought to expose the dangers of locating the origins of modernity in an age of political, cultural, and moral decay. In this work, he accordingly exposed the deadly logic of his contemporaries’ passionate and divisive embrace of the bellicose nationalist ideologies undergirding the war as the medieval world continued to furnish the imagery, vocabulary, and emotional charge of wartime propaganda on the Western Front.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRereading Huizinga
Subtitle of host publicationAutumn of the Middle Ages, a Century Later
EditorsPeter Arnade, Martha Howell, Anton van der Lem
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9789048534098
StatePublished - 2019


  • World War I
  • Flanders


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