Dark Ages is the term that was formerly used to describe the decline of Roman culture and the turmoil in Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Modern historians avoid the term with its implication that only Roman values were civilised values. Many Germanic peoples traveled through Italy, Germany, France, Spain and North Africa, settling wherever they could. Many groups formed their own kingdoms. The label employs traditional light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the “darkness” of the period with earlier and later periods of “light”.
Originally, the term characterized the bulk of the Middle Ages (ca. 5th – 15th C. ) as a period of intellectual darkness between the extinguishing of the light of Rome and the Renaissance or rebirth from the 14th century onwards. This definition is still found in popular usage, but increased recognition of the accomplishments of the Middle Ages since the 19th century has led to the label being restricted in application. Since the 20th century, it is frequently applied only to the earlier part of the era, the Early Middle Ages (ca. 5th – 9th C. ).
However, many modern scholars who study the era tend to avoid the term altogether for its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate for any part of the Middle Ages. The concept of a Dark Age originated with the Italian scholar Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) in the 1330s, and was originally intended as a sweeping criticism of the character of Late Latin literature. Petrarch regarded the post-Roman centuries as “dark” compared to the light of classical antiquity.
The Middle Ages covers the years from approximately 476 (the fall of the Roman Empire) to 1450. This period is further divided into two parts: the early Middle Ages (c. 476-1000) and the late Middle Ages (1000-1450). Though the early Middle Ages were politically shaped by the clash between the Catholic Church and monarchies, it is primarily due to the strength of the Church that documents ( ...
Later historians expanded the term to refer to the transitional period between Roman times and the High Middle Ages (ca. 11th – 13th C.), including not only the lack of Latin literature, but also a lack of contemporary written history, general demographic decline, limited building activity and material cultural achievements in general. Popular culture has further expanded on the term as a vehicle to depict the Middle Ages as a time of backwardness, extending its pejorative use and expanding its scope. The idea of a Dark Age originated with Petrarch in the 1330s. Writing of those who had come before him, he said: “Amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom”.
Christian writers, including Petrarch himself, had long used traditional metaphors of “light versus darkness” to describe “good versus evil”. Petrarch was the first to co-opt the metaphor and give it secular meaning by reversing its application. Classical Antiquity, so long considered the “dark” age for its lack of Christianity, was now seen by Petrarch as the age of “light” because of its cultural achievements, while Petrarch’s time, allegedly lacking such cultural achievements, was seen as the age of darkness.
As an Italian, Petrarch saw the Roman Empire and the classical period as expressions of Italian greatness. He spent much of his time travelling through Europe rediscovering and republishing classic Latin and Greek texts. He wanted to restore the classical Latin language to its former purity. Humanists saw the preceding 900-year period as a time of stagnation. They saw history unfolding, not along the religious outline of Saint Augustine’s Six Ages of the World, but in cultural (or secular) terms through the progressive developments of classical ideals, literature, and art.
During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants wrote of the Middle Ages as a period of Catholic corruption. Just as Petrarch’s writing was not an attack on Christianity per se -– along with his humanism, he was deeply occupied with the search for God –- neither was this an attack on Christianity: it was a drive to restore what Protestants saw as biblical Christianity. The Magdeburg Centuries was a celebrated work of ecclesiastical history compiled by Lutheran scholars and published between 1559 and 1574.
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal The affinity of the American people with fast food can be understood because it enables people to eat on the go and to be able to take out their meals that are set to an affordable price. Fast-food restaurants address a societal need of Americans today which is the lack of time to cook their own food for themselves. If there is such a thing ...
Devoting a volume to each century, it covered the first thirteen centuries of Christianity up to 1298. The work was virulently anti-Catholic. Identifying the Pope as the Antichrist, it painted a “dark” picture of church history after the fifth century, characterizing it as “increments of errors and their corrupting influences” In response to the Protestants, Roman Catholics developed a counter-image, depicting the High Middle Ages in particular as a period of social and religious harmony, and not “dark” at all.
The most important Catholic reply to the Magdeburg Centuries was the Annales Ecclesiastici by Cardinal Caesar Baronius. Baronius was a trained historian who kept theology in the background and produced a work that the Encyclop? dia Britannica in 1911 described as “far surpassing anything before his day” and that Acton regarded as “the greatest history of the Church ever written“. The Annales, covering the first twelve centuries of Christianity up to 1198, was published in twelve volumes between 1588 and 1607.
It was in Volume X that Baronius coined the term “dark age” for the period between the end of the Carolingian Empire in 888 and the first inklings of the Gregorian Reform under Pope Clement II in 1046: The new age (saeculum) which was beginning, for its harshness and barrenness of good could well be called iron, for its baseness and abounding evil leaden, and moreover for its lack of writers (inopia scriptorum) dark (obscurum).
Significantly, Baronius termed the age “dark” because of the paucity of written records capable of throwing light on it for the historian.
While some historians, following Baronius’s lead, used “dark age” neutrally to refer to a dearth of written records, others, in the manner of the early humanists and Protestants (and later the Enlightenment writers and their successors right up to the present day) used it pejoratively, lapsing into that lack of neutrality and objectivity that has quite spoilt the term for many modern historians. The first British historian to use the term was most likely Gilbert Burnet, in the form “darker ages”, which appears several times in his work in the last quarter of the 17th century.
Oliver Twist and the Dark Side of British History Progress can be compared to a coin. On one side of the coin is wealth, and on the other side of the same coin are poverty, despair, misery, and crime. As Gertrude Himmelfarb explains: The Victorians were avowedly, unashamed, incorrigibly moralists. They... engaged in philanthropic enterprises in part to satisfy their own moral needs. And they were ...
His earliest use of it seems to have been in 1679 in the “Epistle Dedicatory” to Volume I of The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, where he writes: “The design of the reformation was to restore Christianity to what it was at first, and to purge it of those corruptions, with which it was overrun in the later and darker ages. ” He uses it again in 1682 in Volume II of the History, where he dismisses the story of “St George’s fighting with the dragon” as “a legend formed in the darker ages to support the humour of chivalry“.
Burnet was a Protestant bishop chronicling how England became Protestant and his use of the term is invariably pejorative During the 17th and 18th centuries, in the Age of Enlightenment, many critical thinkers saw religion as antithetical to reason. For them the Middle Ages, or “Age of Faith”, was therefore the polar opposite of the Age of Reason. Kant and Voltaire, among others, were vocal in attacking the religiously dominated Middle Ages as a period of social regress, while Gibbon in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire expressed contempt for the “rubbish of the Dark Ages”.
The earliest entry for a capitalised “Dark Ages” in the Oxford English Dictionary is a reference in Henry Thomas Buckle’s History of Civilization in England in 1857. Starting and ending dates varied: the Dark Ages were considered by some to start in 410, by others in 476 when there was no longer an emperor in Rome, and to end about 800, at the time of the Carolingian Renaissance under Charlemagne, or to extend through the rest of the 1st millennium. ROMANTICISM
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Romantics reversed the negative assessment of Enlightenment critics and launched a vogue for medievalism. The word “Gothic” had been a term of opprobrium akin to “Vandal” until a few self-confident mid-18th-century English “Goths” like Horace Walpole initiated the Gothic Revival in the arts. This sparked off an interest in the Middle Ages, which for the following Romantic generation began to take on an idyllic image of the “Age of Faith”.
Magic was remarkably prevalent through society in the early Middle Ages. As the Middle Ages wore on the Church began to exert its considerable power to suppress it. Even the meanings of many words associated with the supernatural changed. Although the Church suppressed some magic, other forms were allowed and accepted into Christianity, and were even encouraged.1 Before the Church began its ...
This image, in reaction to a world dominated by Enlightenment rationalism in which reason trumped emotion, expressed a romantic view of a Golden Age of chivalry. Middle Ages were seen with romantic nostalgia as a period of social and environmental harmony and spiritual inspiration, in contrast to the excesses of the French Revolution and, most of all, to the environmental and social upheavals and sterile utilitarianism of the emerging industrial revolution.
When the term “Dark Ages” is used by historians today, therefore, it is intended to be neutral, namely, to express the idea that the events of the period often seem “dark” to us because of the paucity of historical records compared with both earlier and later times. However, from the mid-20th century onwards, other historians became critical of even this nonjudgmental use of the term for two main reasons.
First, it is questionable whether it is possible to use the term “Dark Ages” effectively in a neutral way; scholars may intend this, but it does not mean that ordinary readers will so understand it. Second, the explosion of new knowledge and insight into the history and culture of the Early Middle Ages, which 20th-century scholarship has achieved,[means that these centuries are no longer dark even in the sense of “unknown to us”. To avoid the value judgment implied by the expression, many historians avoid it altogether.