EHK for Darwin Posted January 28, 2009 Author Share Posted January 28, 2009 [quote name='tzanth' post='1665012' date='Jan 27 2009, 23.06']Great topic! I don't think its merely "political correctness" that refrains historians from calling the period the dark ages. Using a value laden adjective like "dark" prejudices our view of the past and thus biases research into the era regardless of the factual nature of any collapse. Indeed, calling what happened during that time a "collapse" is also problematic as it promotes certain social values over others. Surely, you had a decline in centralized government, the depopulation of urban centers, a shift in trade routes, etc, all of which constituted a collapse of the Roman system. Plenty of individuals at the time, however, were perfectly happy with the changes as they occurred. Indeed, as mentioned by Zazby, some parts of the old Roman empire did perfectly well after its decline. I think its thus better to see the period of a time of changing social systems and shifting power structures rather than as a "dark" age of wide ranging social collapse.[/quote] That sounds like a whole boatload of post-modern relativist hand-wringing. Seriously, if Dark Age prejudices, than so does Golden age. But noone has a problem employing that term when appropriate. Historians shouldn't be afraid to cast value judgments when warranted by the research, so long as it isn't too driven by personal or cultural prejudices. And so long as whatever existing prejudices the historian might have going in are acknowledged and analyzed to the extent that it may influence those conclusions and judgments. Simply calling it a change is insufficient I think. Sure there was a change, a change that resulted in less reading, less writing, less building, less trade and commerce, less art, less cultural achievements, less wealth, less security, less urban centers, less education, less literacy, less luxuries, less facilities, less rational and sophisticated legal system, etc. I don't think its unfair to say that the Roman system was replaced with something significantly inferior. Vast knowledge was lost. And it took a hell of a long time to relearn and eventually improve upon it. I don't mean to go off on you, but it does seem that history has to some extent turned into a gold star parade. Every culture, people, empire and time period gets a sticker. None better or worse than the others. I'm sorry but not every culture is equally fascinating, relevant, or developed. [quote]EHK, if you haven't read it, the book Millenium by Tom Holland is a decent read, dealing with Europe in the last centuries of the 'Dark Ages', focusing on the rise of the knightly class, the emergence of the Catholic Church as a unified force and the Christianisation of western Europe. It also makes the argument that the dark ages were a time of relative freedom for the underclasses, compared to what came afterwards.[/quote] I'll give it a look. Actually starting to read Gibbon right now, so it'll be a nice contrast once I finish. (which no doubt will be some time next year) Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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