Article

December 8, 2021

The Middle Ages (adj. medieval) is a period of European history between the 5th and 15th centuries. It begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and ends during the transition to the Modern Age. The Middle Ages is the intermediate period of the classical division of Western History into three periods: Antiquity, Middle Ages and Modern Age, being often divided into High and Low Middle Ages. During the High Middle Ages, depopulation processes, urban regression, and barbaric invasions started during Late Antiquity continued. The barbarian occupiers form new kingdoms, leaning on the structure of the Western Roman Empire. In the 7th century, North Africa and the Middle East, which had been part of the Eastern Roman Empire, became Islamic territories after their conquest by Muhammad's successors. The Byzantine Empire survives and becomes a great power. In the West, although there were significant changes in political and social structures, the break with antiquity was not complete and most new kingdoms incorporated as many pre-existing Roman institutions as possible. Christianity spread throughout Western Europe and there was a surge in the building of new monastic spaces. During the 7th and 8th centuries, the Franks, ruled by the Carolingian dynasty, established an empire that dominated much of western Europe until the 9th century, when it collapsed under the onslaught of the northern Vikings, eastern Magyars and southern Saracens. During the Low Middle Ages, which began after the year 1000, there is a very strong population growth in Europe and a rebirth of commerce, as technical and agricultural innovations allow for greater productivity of soils and crops. It is during this period that the two social structures that dominated Europe until the Renaissance began and consolidated: seigniorialism – the organization of peasants into villages that pay rent and pay homage to a nobleman – and feudalism – a political structure in which knights and other nobles of lower status render military service to their lords, receiving as compensation a lordly property and the right to levy taxes in a certain territory. The Crusades, first announced in 1095, represent Christendom's attempt to regain Muslim rule over the Holy Land, having even established some Christian states in the Middle East. Cultural life was dominated by scholasticism, a philosophy that sought to unite faith and reason, and by the foundation of the first universities. The work of Thomas Aquinas, the painting of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo and the building of the imposing Gothic cathedrals are among the most outstanding achievements of this period. The last two centuries of the Low Middle Ages were marked by various wars, adversities and catastrophes. The population was decimated by successive famines and pestilences; the Black Death alone was responsible for the death of a third of the European population between 1347 and 1350. The Great Schism of the West within the Church had profound consequences on society and was one of the factors that gave rise to countless wars between states. There were also several civil wars and popular revolts within the kingdoms themselves. Cultural and technological progress completely transformed European society, ending the Middle Ages and beginning the Modern Age. Since the Renaissance, the Middle Ages have been repeatedly condemned as an era of obscurantism, tyranny, violence, economic decline, moral degeneration and political confusion. Since Romanticism, in the 19th century, the period has been reevaluated and many of its aspects have been revalued, but not always with an impartial and objective critical judgment,

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