Jacques Barzun, Cultural Historian Dies At 104

Jacques Barzun, the celebrated historian, who worked to constitute the modern discipline of cultural history, died in San Antonio on Thursday night.

Barzun was known for his curiosity which was without limits. He was born outside of Paris and cultivated there over a century ago where he then became an avant-garde salon. Although he was fascinated with the cultural and intellectual achievements of Europe, he was compelled to explore the facets and origins of American cultural life, The New York Timesreports.

A number of books were written by his pen during a span of decades. Notably, “From Dawn to Decadence,” made him a best-selling author while he was in his 90’s, The Associated Pressreports.

“From Dawn to Decadence” surveyed 500 years of history, ending in the 20th century. Barzun wrote the work while fueled by insomnia, he said. In the book, he argues Western civilization is on the decline.

Nearly five decades of the historian’s life were spent at Columbia University as an educator, where he served as provost, university professor, and dean of faculty.


Barzun was considered to be a cultural conservative. He argued that although the people of the West had a way of life and institutions which had never existed prior, the freedom to rebel had lead to the prevalence of decadence and the unraveling of cultural fabric which was unique to the West.

After years of being surrounded by large edifices, Barzun decided more space was ideal for the later years of his life and moved to San Antonio, where he lived until his death:

“After being boxed in by man and his constructions in Europe and the East, the release into space is exhilarating…The horizon is a huge remote circle, and no hills intervene.”

Barzun is survived by his three children, ten grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.