De descriptione temporum

C. S. Lewis, De descriptione temporum (Cambridge, 1955)

C. S. Lewis, De descriptione temporum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955)

May 26, 2023

How to Read History or “De Descriptione Temporum” by C.S. Lewis

How should we read, interpret, and apply history? How can historical misconceptions doom us to repeat the mistakes of the past? Is everything always getting better, or is it possible for new inventions and new ideas to be retrogressive–to take us a step backward? In this week’s episode, Drs. Crystal and David C. Downing sit down with Producer Aaron Hill to discuss C.S. Lewis’s inaugural lecture at Cambridge University for The Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance, Literature entitled, “De Descriptione Temporum” or “A Description of the Times.” They discuss how, in typical fashion, Lewis didn’t waste this opportunity to simply say “thank you” for the promotion. Instead, he laid out his vision of history: how to read ancient literature, how to interpret history, and how the the avoidance of studying dead periods can actually enslave us to the past.

• Reprinted in C. S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp. 1-14.