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Old May 19th, 2017, 05:09 AM   #1

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How do you define early/high/late medieval eras?


For me, the early medieval era started in the 4th century. Roman rule even in areas they controlled outright was starting to wane, and this is how feudalism first emerged.

High medieval started with the crusades, and the late medieval period with the Black Death and the use of gunpowder weaponry. It ended when the Reformation started, and the top European powers were focused on colonisation of the New World.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 05:54 AM   #2

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Good, and vexed, question.

I'm going to work backward as it is a bit easier that way, and, like you, I prefer to associate these with events rather than dates to make it easier to remember.

Don't strongly disagree with the Reformation as being the end of the Medieval or start of the early modern period, although I'd probably push it back into the last half of the 15th C.: fall of Constantinople to the Turks, moveable type in Europe, discovery of the New World. But, hey, what's fifty or seventy-five years in the big scheme of things?

Late Medieval began in the early 14th C. and ended toward the middle of the 15th. for the reasons set forth above and below.

I'd say the "High Medieval Period" started around 1000 and ended around 1300, so dating the end by the Black Death is not too bad, although perhaps a little late. I'd say the publication of Dante's La Divina Comedia. I'd date the beginning by the Norman expansion, so 1066, date of the Norman Conquest of England. The Crusades is a little late, IMO. but not too far off.

That leaves the early Middle Ages, or "Dark Ages"--and when they began depends on whether you accept Henri Pirenne's controversial thesis or not. I tend to buy it, so would date the beginning of the "Dark Ages" around 638, when Arab armies captured Jerusalem, and ending, as stated above, with the start of the Norman expansion.

So, what to do with the period between the fall of the western Roman and the rise of Islam? If you don't buy Pirenne's thesis, then the early Middle Ages began around the time you say, or perhaps a bit later--let's say 400 when the Visigoths invaded Italy.

BTW--Marc Bloch would date the beginning feudalism to the end of the various invasions--Viking, Magyar and Muslim--around 1000, but this would exclude Charlemagne's rule from treatment as a feudal power. So. . .

Will love to hear others weigh in on this.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 06:06 AM   #3

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Periodization in history is not waterproof. It is mainly a tool that allow us to cut the past to fully check it better.

So there is no final definition. There is not a single even that allows stating when is the beginning or the end. It is mostly a question of common acceptance so we can have a common language, a common reference, to communicate better.

After this there are here some of the possible events or trends that can define its borders. Quite in the line with David Vagamundo, noting that the concept of Middle Ages is pretty Eurocentris/Mediterraneocentrist, I would say:

Early Middle Ages: Begins with the Fall of Rome/Fall of the Western Roman Empire;
High Middle Ages: Begins around years 1000;
Late Middle Ages: Begins around year 1300;

End of the Middle Ages: Fall of Constantinople; Discovery of America; Arrival of Vasco da Gama to India… so 1450(3)-1500…
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Old May 19th, 2017, 09:53 AM   #4
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I think a lot of it depends on your cultural background. For example I've met British people who tend to view the "early medieval" as ending after the Norman conquest in 1066, but then I've met other people who say the transition from "early medieval" to "high medieval" was with the First Crusade in 1095.

Just for myself, I tend to class the "early medieval" as about the 7th-10th century, the "high medieval" as 11th-13th century, and the "late medieval" as 14th-15th century.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 10:29 AM   #5

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Earlier, I commented:

"So, what to do with the period between the fall of the western Roman [Empire] and the rise of Islam? If you don't buy Pirenne's thesis, then the early Middle Ages began around the time you say, or perhaps a bit later--let's say 400 when the Visigoths invaded Italy."

This is called "Late Antiquity". It's so good to have a name to go with a concept!
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Old May 19th, 2017, 10:56 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hama View Post
I think a lot of it depends on your cultural background. For example I've met British people who tend to view the "early medieval" as ending after the Norman conquest in 1066, but then I've met other people who say the transition from "early medieval" to "high medieval" was with the First Crusade in 1095.

Just for myself, I tend to class the "early medieval" as about the 7th-10th century, the "high medieval" as 11th-13th century, and the "late medieval" as 14th-15th century.
To make the border in the year 1000, 1066, or 1095 it is not so different in the long term…

If we go to the Ancient Period, the Antiquity, Proto-History or even Pre-History the borders between the time periods are even more gray. They are only artificial references that help us.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 11:02 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulius View Post
To make the border in the year 1000, 1066, or 1095 it is not so different in the long term…

If we go to the Ancient Period, the Antiquity, Proto-History or even Pre-History the borders between the time periods are even more gray. They are only artificial references that help us.
True, not that important when you're looking at a broader scope. When looking more closely at individual decades/events, then I think it starts to matter a bit. Anyway the OP was just asking about how we classify the different time frames, so I was trying to make the point that personal backgrounds can affect how we each categorize the eras. Like I said I've met people with varied opinions on it.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 11:22 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hama View Post
True, not that important when you're looking at a broader scope. When looking more closely at individual decades/events, then I think it starts to matter a bit. Anyway the OP was just asking about how we classify the different time frames, so I was trying to make the point that personal backgrounds can affect how we each categorize the eras. Like I said I've met people with varied opinions on it.
Agreed. And what you said previously about the Cultural background is quite relevant. Besides, to complicate the things, there are even theories/concepts that the Middle Ages didn’t end in all the regions at the same time.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 11:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulius View Post
Agreed. And what you said previously about the Cultural background is quite relevant. Besides, to complicate the things, there are even theories/concepts that the Middle Ages didn’t end in all the regions at the same time.
That's true too! Along with the idea that different parts of Europe developed at different rates, the whole concept of the "medieval" era as many of us who've lived in the west would know it might not fit that well in to the histories/developmental stages of other parts of the world.

Last edited by hama; May 19th, 2017 at 11:32 AM.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 11:45 AM   #10

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It depends on the historiography school you consider ...

For example, in Italy "High Middle Age" starts with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and it ends with the 1,000 year.

So it's from 476 to 1,000.

Generally I don't expect to meet an international agreement about similar definitions. Simply I don't mind.
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