The Autumn of the Middle Ages

The Autumn of the Middle Ages, The Waning of the Middle Ages, or Autumntide of the Middle Ages (published in 1919 as Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen and translated into English in 1924, German in 1924, and French in 1932), 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. The new translation, by Rodney Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch, was based on the second edition of the Dutch publication in 1921 and compared with the German translation published in 1924.

To mark the centenary of Herfsttij a new translation by Diane Webb appeared in 2020, published by Leiden University Press: Autumntide of the Middle Ages. According to Benjamin Kaplan this translation captures Huizingas original voice better than either of the two previous English editions. This new English edition also includes for the first time 300 full-colour illustrations of all the works of art Huizinga mentions in his text.
In the 1970s, Radio Netherlands produced an audio series about the book, entitled “Autumn of the Middle Ages: A Six-part History in Words and Music from the Low Countries”.