Monday, 5 May 2014

The Middle Ages

It's Monday, I feel like writing about something to do with the Middle Ages, so let's dub these 'medieval Mondays'. I thought I'd start out with one simple question: when exactly were the Middle Ages?

Except that it's not particularly simple, because of two things. The first is that it varied a bit from place to place. If we suggest that the Middle Ages were between the fall of the Roman Empire and the start of the Renaissance... well, the Romans withdrew from different places at different times, while different countries had their own renaissances at different points too. And frankly, those are all European concepts anyway, that wouldn't be applicable to places like Japan (which officially ended feudalism in 1868) or the USA.

The second problem is that no one at the time thought "Oh, we're in the Middle Ages now". It's just a label we've put on afterwards. Or rather, that the people in the Renaissance put on afterwards to emphasise that they really had more to do with those elegant Romans than with their more immediate forebears.

Yet roughly, we can say that the Middle Ages probably lasted in some form from the late fourth century to about 1500 or so. Meaning for about a thousand years. People sometimes forget about how long it was. They talk about it as one homogenous thing for a whole millennium, when it can't have been, realistically. Are we saying that we're basically the same as Edward the Confessor? Because we're closer to him than the people at the end of the period were to people at the start. It's worth thinking about.

1 comment:

mshatch said...

Interesting point!I find it an interesting time to read about. Wouldn't want to live there though!