Jacques Barzun And Civilization In Decline

The great historian Jacques Barzun is dead at 104. He said western civilization is in decline. We’ll debate.

Sacco di Roma 455 (WikiCommons)

Sacco di Roma 455 (WikiCommons)

Civilizations rise and fall.  Last week, a great narrator of the civilization of the West fell.  Jacques Barzon.  At 104.  Immigrant intellectual and American icon.  He invented the modern idea of cultural history.  Spent a long lifetime focused on history, art, music, science, baseball, Berlioz.

And in his venerated ‘90s, wrote a bestseller titled “From Dawn to Decadence,”  looking at 500 years of Western history and concluding the West is in decline.  Was he right?

This hour, On Point:  Jacques Barzon’s summation, and the question – are we living the decline of the West?

-Tom Ashbrook


Michael Murray, author of Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind and editor of A Jacques Barzun Reader.

John Lukacs, historian and longtime friend of Jacques Barzun.

James Miller, professor of political science and liberal studies at the New School. His most recent book is Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzche.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post “Jacques Barzun, a Columbia University historian and administrator whose sheer breadth of scholarship — culminating in a survey of 500 years of Western civilization — brought him renown as one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th century, died Oct. 25 in San Antonio, where he had lived in recent years. He was 104.”

New York Times “Mr. Barzun was a man of boundless curiosity, monumental productivity and manifold interests, encompassing both Berlioz and baseball. It was a life of the mind first cultivated more than a century ago in a childhood home outside Paris that became an avant-garde salon.”


March to the Scaffold (from Symphonie Fantastique) — Hector Berlioz

The Damnation of Faust — Hector Berlioz

Requiem — Hector Berlioz

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