den geestelijken

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I went looking for a reference for the sentence:

“History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.”

which I see attributed to Johan Huizinga in The Task of the Cultural Historian (1929). Further research took me to the Dutch language Wikipedia page for Johan Huizinga where I found this sentence:

Geschiedenis is den geestelijken vorm waarin een cultuur zich rekenschap geeft van haar verleden.”

with a reference to Cultuurhistorische verkenningen (1929), page 156.
This is a new usage for “den geestelijken” for my eyes, and my research for confirmation isn’t coming up with anything much beyond “the clergy”. I can see how these meanings might connect, but none of the definitions I came up with actually support this surmise. Can anyone confirm “significance” as being a good translation of “den geestelijken”? If this is a good translation, then please kindly tell me: What is the usage range of “den geestelijken”, and/or, what is the background of this seemingly special usage?
  • Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    It's out-dated Dutch (first half of the 20th century).

    "geestelijken vorm" = "mental/spiritual format": so the sentence translates to something like: "History is the mental/spiritual format in which a culture [acknowledges/recognizes/becomes aware of] its past".

    EDIT: added some alternative translations
    Last edited:
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