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Medieval/Middle Ages

June 21, 2011


“Medieval” is an adjective, used to describe the Middle Ages.

“Middle Ages” is an era in recorded history.


The Middle Ages is a block of time measured in centuries. As the name implies, it fits between two other ages, Classical and Modern, in the very general and arbitrary labelling that historians favour. Middle Ages very roughly comprises the period from the fifth century to the 15th.

Three periods divide the Middle Ages: Early, High and Late.

Many of the trappings we associate with life in the Middle Ages come only from the Late period, and only from Western Europe. These include legends of the Crusades, chivalry and courtly love, gothic castles and cathedrals, feudal agricultural societies and strict religious control over daily lives.

In fact, the Middle Ages encompasses the adventures of Vikings, Barbarians and Mongols. It includes the final throes of the Roman Empire, epic clashes between Christianity and Islam (whose competing explorers, historians and scientists leap-frogged to new heights of knowledge), the rise of city-states and the consolidation of wealth on a new scale.

    Popular Culture

Hollywood adores the Middle Ages as source material, but takes extreme liberties.

Medieval period movies may be deliberate farces (eg. Monty Python and the Holy Grail), though some devolve into earnestly mistaken parodies (eg. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

When did the Middle Ages end and the Modern Age begin? Take your pick: the invention of the Gutenberg Press; the Islamic Conquest of Constantinople; the end of Islamic dynasties in Spain; the arrival of Europeans in North America.

    Kick at the Darkness

“Dark Ages” is different from Middle Ages. Dark Ages has come to mean any period or era in which science, philosophy and personal freedom are restricted under fierce religious doctrines.

Though the period after it is called the Renaissance, or “rebirth,” historians agree that religion did not decimate reason during the Middle Ages to the extent once thought.


Read more: What’s the Difference?

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