Jacques Barzun

26 December 2006 at 11:32 pm Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

Rafe Champion offers a thoughtful tribute to Jacques Barzun (1907-), the great historian of ideas, culture, and education whose magnum opus From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life appeared in 2000. Unlike Joseph Schumpeter, who believed that a scholar must make his key contributions during the “golden decade” of his 20s, Barzun began this ambitious work a bit later in life:

When I was just beginning to teach, about 1935, I thought I would write a history of European culture from 1789 to the present. I was dissuaded from it by a friend of my father’s who was the director of the Bibliotheque Nationale. I was doing research there and he asked me what I was doing, and I told him, and he said, “Oh, young man, please don’t do any such thing. You’ll write about things that you know at first hand, and you will fill the rest out with things you get out of secondary texts. There’s no need of that at any time.” So I said, “How long should I study original works before I begin?” He said, “Well, why don’t you wait until you are 80.” I think I waited until I was 84, 85.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Recommended Reading.

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