Saturday, May 14, 2016

"The Dark Ages"

From Stephanie Mann:
The English Heritage Society referred to the period from 400 to 1066 A.D. as "the Dark Ages" at an exhibit at Tintagel Castle, and one of the writers at History Today doesn't like it:
The term ‘Dark Ages’ found a foothold in the 17th and 18th centuries, with historians like Edward Gibbon writing about the ‘darkness’ of the period, and reached its peak in the mid-19th century as, with a fervent belief in the dawn of a modern age, a growing Empire needed to build a dark past from which to emerge. The Dark Ages cling to Victorian ideals.

As a concept it is steeped in intellectual and cultural superiority used to dismiss the early Middle Ages as a period of ‘intellectual darkness’ before the Renaissance. In fact, we know far more about late Anglo-Saxon England than we do about Roman Britain.

The phrase feeds into a romanticised view of the period: lost to the mists of time, savage and lawless. But that could not be further from the truth. We might not have the overwhelming wealth of materials of later periods but enough survives to see the extent of their intellectual and cultural development. Pre-Conquest England was not without law, culture and politics.
Not to mention the anti-Catholic aspect of the nomenclature. (Read more.)

No comments: