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Jacques Barzun
1907 -

American historian, former professor emeritus of the history of western cultural civilization and provost at Columbia University, author of The House of Intellect and other works


I [want] people who [have] been seduced away from our heritage by all sorts of words like "modernism" and "postmodernism," and "the end of the European age," to come back to what has made us what we are, with the sense of not only continuity, but continuous change, and then to view the state to which those changes have brought us.

Oct. 13, 2000 - from an interview by Roger Gatham in the Austin Chronicle
The student who reads history will unconsciously develop what is the highest value of history: judgment in worldly affairs. This is a permanent good, not because "history repeats" - we can never exactly match past and present situations - but because the "tendency of things" shows an amazing uniformity within any given civilization. As the great historian Burckhardt said of historical knowledge, it is not "to make us more clever the next time, but wiser for all time."

1991 - from Begin Here
Ethics must be seen to be believed.

1991 - from Begin Here
Judgments... in... delicate matters must be weighed, not counted.

1991 - from "An Essay on French Verse"
The passion for freedom breeds the rage for order.

1991 - from "An Essay on French Verse"
A self is not found but made.

2000 - from From Dawn to Decadence
A failure of will, which is to say the wish without the act, is characteristic of institutions in decadence.

2000 - from From Dawn to Decadence
The editorial, the placard, and the elementary school have been [Liberalism's] instruments, instead of the scepter, the cross, the pilgrimage, the pageant, and the churchhouse.

1980 - from Critical Questions
[A historical perspective offers] as its best reward the positive good of reviving the lost faculty of admiration.

quoted by colleague Fritz Stern in the Columbia University Record, Apr. 25, 1997
Great cultural changes begin in affectation and end in routine.

1959 - from The House of Intellect