Dark Ages

Topics: Middle Ages, Dark Ages, Renaissance Pages: 6 (2176 words) Published: May 3, 2014
Dark Ages
The Dark Ages is a historical period used originally for the Middle Ages, which emphasizes the cultural and economic deterioration that occurred in Western Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire. The period is characterized by a relative scarcity of historical and other written records at least for some areas of Europe, rendering it obscure to historians. The term "Dark Age" derives from the Latin word “saeculum obscurum”, originally said by Caesar Baronius in 1602 to a tumultuous period in the 10th and 11th centuries.

The word "Dark Ages" originally was intended to denote the entire period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, the term "Middle Ages" has a similar meaning, being an intermediate period between Classical Antiquity and the Modern era. In the 19th century scholars began to recognize the accomplishments made during the period, thereby saying the image of the Middle Ages were a time of darkness and decay. Now the term is not used by scholars to refer to the entire medieval period, when it is used it is generally restricted to the Early Middle Ages.

The rise of archaeology and other specialties in the 20th century has shed much light on the period and offered a more understanding of its positive developments. When modern scholarly study of the Middle Ages arose in the 19th century, the term "Dark Ages" was at first kept, with all its critical overtones. On the rare occasions when the term "Dark Ages" is used by historians today, it is intended to be neutral, namely, to express the idea that the events of the period often seem "dark" because of the scarcity of artistic and cultural output.

Toward the end of the 11th century, the Catholic Church began to authorize military expeditions, or Crusades, to expel Muslim “infidels” from the Holy Land. Crusaders, who wore red crosses on their coats to advertise their status, believed that their service would guarantee the remission of their sins and ensure that they could spend all eternity in Heaven. They also received more worldly rewards, such as papal protection of their property and forgiveness of some kinds of loan payments.

The Crusades began in 1095, when Pope Urban summoned a Christian army to fight its way to Jerusalem, and continued on and off until the end of the 15th century. No one “won” the Crusades; in fact, many thousands of people from both sides lost their lives. They did make ordinary Catholics across Christendom feel like they had a common purpose, and they inspired waves of religious enthusiasm among people who might otherwise have felt alienated from the official Church. They also exposed Crusaders to Islamic literature, science and technology--exposure that would have a lasting effect on European intellectual life.

In medieval Europe, rural life was governed by a system scholars call “feudalism.” In a feudal society, the king granted large pieces of land called fiefs to noblemen and bishops. Landless peasants known as serfs did most of the work on the fiefs: They planted and harvested crops and gave most of the produce to the landowner. In exchange for their labor, they were allowed to live on the land. They were also promised protection in case of enemy invasion.

During the 11th century, however, feudal life began to change. Agricultural innovations such as the heavy plow and three-field crop rotation made farming more efficient and productive, so fewer farm workers were needed--but thanks to the expanded and improved food supply, the population grew. As a result, more and more people were drawn to towns and cities. Meanwhile, the Crusades had expanded trade routes to the East and given Europeans a taste for imported goods such as wine, olive oil and luxurious textiles. As the commercial economy developed, port cities in particular thrived. By 1300, there were some 15 cities in Europe with a population of more than 50,000.In these cities, a new era was born: the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a time of great...
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