'The Dark Ages', not what I thought it was.

Massive disclaimer, my history knowledge is mostly around the area of the Industrial Revolution and the social impacts of WW2 on the British… I just happen to be reading an awesome popular history book called ‘An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge‘ by John O’Farrell which made me realise that I was wrong in my thought that the ‘Dark Ages’ was referred to as such because of religion preventing progress when it’s not really that at all.

Until recently I had believed ‘Dark Ages’ was applied in the sense that it was a time of Evangelical Christian uprising, science being forbidden and superstition running amok etc… when actually the term ‘Dark Ages’ is applied because there was so little written down during the period because the Angelo-Saxons turned up and decided to replace the population of Britain. Unlike the previous invasions where you could argue the structure of Britain had been changed for the better with the introduction of literacy and the like, the Angelo-Saxons just wanted the land and weren’t interested in the people living there. The Angelo Saxons were illiterate so by wiping out the majority of the people who were literature very little was recorded.  It became the ‘Dark Ages’ since we don’t really know what went on. There was a state of constant warfare that stunted cultural development, altered the geographical demographic of the country and limited building construction. The term ‘Dark Ages’ stopped being applied to the Early Middle Ages around the 19th century when scholars really started to look into this period and now the term ‘Dark Ages’ is hardly used… when used it’s a neutral term to describe the lack of development.

The term ‘Dark Ages’ is usually attributed to a 14th century scholar called Petrach who took the piss out of the Christian writers take on ‘light vs dark’ metaphor (they considered the era of the Roman Empire as ‘dark’ because of the lack of Christianity) by saying ‘”amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius, no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom.”‘ Petrach was an Italian and believed in the greatness of the Roman Empire, to him the fall of Rome and the loss of the cultural
developments and artistic developments that took place at the time signalled a ‘dark age’.

The idea that history repeats itself is fascinating since it does seem to do so, like in this situation. At the time of Petrach little joke towards Christian clichés, the Humanists were arguing that history was shown by the development and progression culture, ideas, literature and art whereas the Christians saw history unfolding in the way that St Augustine outlined in his ‘Six Ages of the World’ – now we’re having the debate that the development of humanity and progression is through science rather than religion (the evolution vs. creationism argument).

I love history 🙂


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