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Bidding for favours

Nicholas Penny, 19 December 1991

The Altarpiece in Renaissance Italy 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited and translated by Peter Humfrey.
Phaidon, 249 pp., £75, October 1988, 0 7148 2477 1
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The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy 
by Jacob Burckhardt, translated by S.G. Middlemore.
Penguin, 389 pp., £7.99, December 1991, 9780140445343
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The Altarpiece in the Renaissance 
edited by Peter Humfrey and Martin Kemp.
Cambridge, 273 pp., £35, February 1991, 0 521 36061 7
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Painting in Renaissance Siena 
by Keith Christiansen, Laurence Kanter and Carl Stehlke.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 386 pp., $45, July 1989, 0 8109 1473 5
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... of the three centuries which followed. It is therefore surprising that, before the translation of Burckhardt’s essay, Das Altarbild, there was no book in English tracing the origins and early evolution of this art form, and describing its purpose. Burckhardt’s essay, which deals only with Italy, was written in ...

Echoes from the Far Side

James Sheehan: The European Age, 19 October 2017

The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 
by Richard J. Evans.
Penguin, 848 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 14 198114 7
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... built, railways altered the way millions of men and women experienced time and space: the train, Jacob Burckhardt wrote in 1840, ‘glides in 33 or 35 minutes to … distant Potsdam … It really flies there like a bird.’ They also greatly enhanced the ability of governments to project power, allowing them to penetrate their territories and control ...

The vanquished party, as likely as not innocent, was dragged half-dead to the gallows

Alexander Murray: Huizinga’s history of the Middle Ages, 19 March 1998

The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... we must be grateful to scholars who have done it well. Two names spring at once to mind: those of Jacob Burckhardt, whose Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, written in 1860, is still required reading on its subject; and Johan Huizinga, who wrote in Burckhardt’s shadow about the same centuries (though not the ...

History as a Bunch of Flowers

James Davidson: Jacob Burckhardt, 20 August 1998

The Greeks and Greek Civilisation 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited by Oswyn Murray, translated by Sheila Stern.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £24.99, May 1998, 0 00 255855 6
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... Theodor Mommsen, Julius Beloch, Eduard Meyer and Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, alleging that Burckhardt had written a non-existent book – ‘incapable of saying anything either of Greek religion or of the Greek state which deserves a hearing’ – on a non-existent subject: ‘The Greece of Burckhardt no more exists ...

Modern Prejudice

M.I. Finley, 2 December 1982

Blood for the Ghosts: Classical Influences in the 19th and 20th Centuries 
by Hugh Lloyd-Jones.
Duckworth, 312 pp., £24, May 1982, 0 7156 1500 9
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Classical Survivals: The Classics in the Modern World 
by Hugh Lloyd-Jones.
Duckworth, 184 pp., £18, May 1982, 0 7156 1517 3
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History of Classical Scholarship 
by U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, translated by Alan Harris.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 0976 9
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... argument or example, and not always reasonable. Two of Wilamowitz’s chief butts, Nietzsche and Jacob Burckhardt, are not even mentioned, though his early assaults on them were genuine scandals and were never retracted. What I have concentrated on is the far more important matter, as I indicated at the outset, of the place of Classical studies in our ...


J.P. Stern, 30 August 1990

Unmodern Observations 
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown and William Arrowsmith.
Yale, 402 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 300 04311 2
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The Importance of Nietzsche 
by Erich Heller.
Chicago, 200 pp., £23.95, February 1989, 0 226 32637 3
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... who have contributed to this volume could muster – with the sort of irony that speaks from Jacob Burckhardt’s letter of February 1874: ‘In thanking you very warmly, and having merely rushed through this immensely significant essay, I can only say a word or two in reply ... Above all, my wretched head has never been capable of reflecting even ...

From Norwich to Naples

Anthony Grafton, 28 April 1994

The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance 
by John Hale.
HarperCollins, 648 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 00 215339 4
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... images across what remained a dangerous and divided countryside. Like his most admired forerunner, Jacob Burckhardt, Hale insists that the Renaissance cannot be reduced to the Classical revival that nourished it; but he supports this thesis with a range of evidence that goes against Burckhardt’s belief in a unified ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... of faith in the zeitgeist has been to reject the kind of portrait of an age painted so vividly by Jacob Burckhardt and Johan Huizinga and to retreat into monographs on limited topics. An exciting feature of Greenblatt’s book, made most explicit in his introductory essay, is that he offers a way of putting an age, or culture, together again. His own ...
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... surface of historical debate. As for the concept of the Renaissance itself, to which, as we know, Jacob Burckhardt gave such lustre, here is Hexter in 1951 wondering whether it would survive much longer the irreverent scepticism he himself professed for it. Well, yes, it has survived, unhappily for Hexter, and not only, as our author claims, because of ...

Whig History

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1982

A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past 
by J.W. Burrow.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 521 24079 4
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... its own terms and even, where possible, to enjoy it. The portraits in hall – the Swiss Victorian Jacob Burckhardt, Leopold Ranke, the German father of scientific history – look down approvingly. Magnificently expressed, we have Burrow’s admonition that ‘we can avoid ... writing as though we told the story ... The shield of Aeneas foretold the ...


Adrienne Mayor: Aristotle and Science, 2 July 2015

The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
Bloomsbury, 501 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4088 3620 0
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... centuries’ worth of dust. Inexplicably, Leroi’s sole source is an 1872 history of Greece by Jacob Burckhardt, a fierce Swiss contrarian who detested Athenian democracy and glorified aristocracies (and Sparta). Leroi also misses the opportunity to illuminate a lost chapter in the history of science. Some of the first inklings of the ...


Keith Thomas: Working Methods, 10 June 2010

... on The Footnote, Anthony Grafton quotes a letter by the great Swiss historian of the Renaissance Jacob Burckhardt, reporting that he had just cut up his notes on Vasari’s Lives into 700 little slips and rearranged them to be glued into a book, organised by topic.From this practice of making notes on separate slips of paper there emerged what became ...

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount, 20 February 2020

... wealth. This is not, I think, what voters in Sunderland and Cornwall voted for. Enthusiasts like Jacob Rees-Mogg compare Brexit to the repeal of the Corn Laws. They tend not to dwell on the terrible agricultural depression that set in after the American railways and steamships started bringing corn from the Midwest into the country in the 1870s. Thousands of ...

Down with Occurrences

Erin Maglaque: Baroque Excess, 3 December 2020

Out of Italy 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Europa, 295 pp., £12.99, July 2019, 978 1 78770 166 3
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... to explain cultural change, it is partly because he couldn’t escape the shadow of another book: Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (1860). While Braudel devoted his life to a ‘science of history’, Burckhardt practised history as portraiture, taking an era as his subject. Often ...

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