The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages

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Rome fell in 476 AD, the subsequent 1000 years made up a period of time called the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages are often referred to as the Dark Ages because of the way of life in Europe during that age. William Manchester suggests that this time period was actually a dark age, in his A World Lit Only By Fire. Manchester describes the ‘Dark Ages’ as a “mélange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness”. He also states how famines and plague repetitively thinned the population, and that “rickets afflicted the survivors”.

Manchester strengthens his argument by establishing the fact that after a thousand years of neglect, the roads built by Romans were still the best on the continent, and that their was practically no stone buildings raised for ten centuries. Another situation that Manchester comments on is that only one of every hundred murderers was every brought to justice. In addition, he goes on to talk about how brutal the medieval tournaments were, and how Christianity was the foremost principal in medieval life, that the Church became the “wealthiest landowner on the continent, and the life of every European, from baptism through matrimony to burial, was governed by popes, cardinals, prelates, monsignors, archbishops, bishops, and village priests.” Manchester also insists that the Medieval world was a society that had not reached a relatively high level of cultural and technological development. Manchester also enlightens us on the fact that less than once percent of the souls in Christendom were wellborn, and that the rest – “nearly 60 million Europeans – were known as Hans, Jacques, Sal, Carlos, Will, or Will’s wife, Will’s son, or Will’s daughter.” Since most peasants rarely left their birthplace, there was “seldom need for any tag beyond One-Eye, or Roussie (Redhead), or Bionda (Blondie)…”. He also informs us that in the medieval mind there was no awareness of time, and that medieval men hardly ever knew what century they were living in, and he calls the Middle Ages a “meaningless, timeless blur”, where generations succeeded one another, and that popes, emperors and kings died and were succeeded by new popes, emperors, and kings.

In his piece, Manchester feels that the term ‘Dark Ages’ is a more suitable title than ‘Middle Ages’ or ‘Medieval Period’. Fred C. Robinson basically rebuts William Manchester’s standpoint on the argument of the term ‘Dark Ages’ vs.

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‘Medieval Period’ in his piece “Medieval; The Middle Ages”. Robinson begins his argument by stating that ‘medieval’ is most often used in Modern English, simply as a “vague pejorative term meaning “outmoded,” “hopelessly antiquated,” or even simply “bad”.

Robinson feels that the term medieval is misunderstood in the sense that most people view the word to simply mean ‘evil’. He also informs us how that around 1980, writers for most newspapers and magazines seem to have reached the conclusion that medieval was an official title for Ayatollah Khomeini. Robinson also comments on the fact that during the Middle Ages, the power of the monarchs was typically limited by the power of the church. Furthermore, Robinson states how he can set “only three lonely examples of ‘medieval’ used in a purely positive sense”. In his piece, Robinson illustrates how he feels that the modern uses for the word ‘medieval’ are inaccurate, and that medieval can not be synonymous of the words ‘bad’ or evil’.

The position that I take in the argument has to be on the side of Robinson, that the Middle Ages was a time of new discoveries, and that during that time period, many new and brilliant ideas were set up, and that these thoughts set precedents for the future scholars that would soon revolutionize the world. I feel that there is no debate here, and that Manchester’s piece is full of beliefs that I deem to be blatant ignorance, and that Manchester is strictly opinionated to his side of the argument. I feel that Manchester is unaware of the inspirational and ingenious thoughts that many Medieval scholars brought upon the world. As you can see, these terms, ‘Dark Ages’, ‘Middle Ages’ and ‘Medieval Period’, will most likely be incessantly debated.
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