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Likewise There Were No European Dark Ages, The Myth Of The Dark Ages, The Myth Of The “Dark Ages”, Medieval Europe: The Myth Of The Dark Ages, Busting The “Dark Ages” Myth, and of course smug Tumblr posts. Many people’s idea of medieval times is exaggerated. Suppose someone tells you that the middle of America contains the Great Plains, a very flat region.
Not every scientist was burned at the stake, not everyone thought the world was flat and surrounded by space dragons, and the High Middle Ages were notable for impressive levels of material progress which in some cases outpaced the Classical World and which set the stage for the upcoming Renaissance (the continuity thesis). But I worry that as usual, this corrective to an overblown narrative of darkness has itself been overblown. But you know that actually there are lots of tall mountains, like the Rockies.
The term “Dark Ages” was first used in the 14th century by Petrarch, an Italian poet with a penchant for Roman nostalgia.
People are now talking about how you’re a gullible rube if you still believe in a so-called “Dark Age”, and how all the real intellectuals know that this was a time of flourishing civilization every bit as good as the Romans or the Renaissance. The period from about 500 to about 1000 in Christian Western Europe was marked by profound economic and intellectual decline and stagnation relative to the periods that came before and after it. And not even all of Europe – not in the Eastern Roman Empire, not in al-Andalus… Have you debunked the so-called Great Plains narrative and proven that its believers are credulous morons?
This is incompatible with the “no such thing as the Dark Ages” claim except by a bunch of tortured logic, isolated demands for rigor, and historical ignorance. I wonder if these people interrupt anyone who talks about the Warring States period with “actually, there were only warring states in China. Or have you just missed that there’s a natural and well-delineated area suitable to be called “Great Plains” that doesn’t include your supposed counterexamples?
And that the people I am disagreeing with are not historians themselves, but other non-historians trying to interpret historians’ work in a popular way that I interpret as wrong.
And that as far as I know The Dark Ages were never a thing.
Christian writers, including Petrarch himself, had long used traditional metaphors of ‘light versus darkness’ to describe ‘good versus evil’.