This week is finals week and today I am working on my history final. We have to come up with reasons why the Middle Ages were not really a time of doom and gloom. I wrote about this a while ago when I tried for a free lance writing job with Answer.com. Sadly they wanted someone with more experience but hey I tried right? So instead of deleting my short article I thought I would share it with my readers. I cannot use it for school purposes since I have to only use material found in our text. As a medieval scholar my final paper will be easy to write, but it would have been fantastic if I could have used this.
Why the Dark Age was not a time of doom and gloom.
Scholars agree the period from 476 AD to 1000 AD found life harsh but should not be termed The Dark Ages. Rather scholars call this period the Early Middle Ages. Many bright spots appeared even as society was in turmoil. The code of Chivalry, scientific, agricultural and artistic advancements all happened during this time.
The Code of Chivalry started in the court of Charlemagne 742-814. Charlemagne not only brought order to Western Europe he required his army to develop moral codes of conduct as well. Charlemagne wanted Europe and its people to live in a just and fair world. These rules included obedience to the king or local lord, taking care of the less fortunate by giving to the poor widows and orphans, living by honor and for glory, to refrain from “wanton” acts, to fight for the well fair of all, to keep faith and at all times speak the truth. This code of conduct was a far cry from the armies that came before as they were allowed to plunder and rape after invading an area.
In the Islamic world math was advancing with the invention of Algebra and the decimal positioning number still in use today The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing was written by Al-Khwārizmī (790-840) and the Arabic title of the book gave Europe the word “algebra”. It is far to say though the Early Middle Age Eastern world was advancing math, the Western world lagged behind.
The Scientific method, as systematic approach to theory and experimentation, developed during the Early Middle Ages. Scientific observation of the natural world took the place of classical theoretical thought of how things worked.
The beginning of a formal European educational system was started in the Early Middle Ages. The early European Universities taught the arts, law, medicine and theology. Scholars spent long hours copying Greek and Roman philosophy and classic works. It was during this time that many monasteries also started to appreciate what the classical period had to offer after decades of rejecting classical philosophy. If it were not for the scholars both secular and religious many of the classics from the Hellenistic period would be lost.
Along with Universities architect and the arts took on new schools of thought. Early Middle Age architects studied the classical period and looked beyond form as function. Beauty in form was desired over function as form. From this period on Cathedrals, Universities, Monasteries and stately castles and homes would themselves be works of art. The Early Middle age painters started to depict realistic scenes and people, paving the way for the Baroque style that would came in the later renaissance period.
Peasants may have had to work hard because of the primitive agricultural tools available to them but after the invention of the heavy plow land that had soil once too hard to break up could now be used. As more land was used for farming new growing techniques were developed. The three field system of farming was an early precursor to the system of crop rotation we use today. The three field system allowed for a field for winter crops, a field for summer crops and a third to lay fallow for a year.
With all of these advancements in science, math, agriculture and arts it is hardly fare to call the Early Middle Ages the Dark Ages. Though most of us would agree it would not be a good time to be sick, but that is a subject for a different article
I will be busy with my religious final for a few days, so if you do not hear from me you will know why. Meanwhile tell me what you are reading now, as I will have a month off from school and would like some good recommendations.