Barzun, Jacques

Barzun, Jacques zhäk bärˈzən [key], 1907–2012, American writer, educator, and historian, b. Créteil, France, grad. Columbia (B.A., 1927; Ph.D., 1932). Barzun moved to the United States in 1919. A student of law and history and one of the founders of the discipline of cultural history, he began teaching history at Columbia in 1928 and spent the remainder of his long and distinguished academic career there. Appointed professor in 1945, he became dean of the graduate faculties in 1955, and was (1958–67) dean of faculties and provost. He became professor emeritus in 1975. For nine decades Barzun wrote and edited critical and historical studies, essays, and reviews on a wide variety of subjects. He particularly espoused the ideals of liberty and individualism that emanated from 19th-cent. liberalism and the romantic movement. His dozens of books include Race: A Study in Modern Superstition (1937. rev. ed. 1965), Romanticism and the Modern Ego (1943, 2d rev. ed. retitled Classic, Romantic, and Modern, 1961), The Teacher in America (1945), Berlioz and the Romantic Century (2 vol., 1950), Darwin, Marx, Wagner (rev. 2d ed., 1958), The House of Intellect (1959), Science: The Glorious Entertainment (1964), The American University (1968), Berlioz and the Romantic Century (3d ed. 1969), The Use and Abuse of Art (1974), and Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning (1991). His sweeping, critically acclaimed historical survey, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present (2000), which asserted that Western civilization had begun a time of decline, was a surprise best seller.

See M. Murray, ed., A Jacques Barzun Reader (2002); biography by M. Murray (2011).

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