Sunday, May 17, 2009

The End of the Middle Ages

       I picked 1492 and the discovery of North and South America by Europeans as my point at which the Middle Ages ended but lately I have been wondering if that is the best date.
It is a time when the discovery of this whole other continent and foods and peoples changed the face of Europe but 1453 has much to recommend it also.
      The Middle Ages are held to have begun with the fall of Rome in 410 at the hands of Alaric the Visigoth.  It is an important moment and shook the faith of the Christians so much so that Augustine of Hippo wrote his book City of God in response to the question that if this was the true faith, why did God allow the city to fall.  It had stood for so many centuries while it was pagan.
       Constantine, fearing the advances of the Germanic tribes, had already removed the capital of the Roman Empire to a new city which he named Constantinople, now called Istanbul. This move split the empire into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern.  So it is fitting, in a way, that the Middle Ages end with the fall of the Eastern Empire since it began with the fall of the Western.
       Petrach was an Italian writer who re-discovered Classical writers and 'began' the movement towards Humanism.  He is also credited with coining the phrase "Dark Ages". 
     When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German so that everyone could read it, it heralded the end of the power of the Roman Church which had ruled the Middle Ages.
     So what do you think? Which year really showed that the Middle Ages were over and done with?
     There are other options like the arrival of the Black Death.  The end of the Hundred Years War and some even choose the French Revolution as the final nail in the casket of the Middle Ages. 
(voting is over, results shown in previous post)

10 comments:

lunas-ceiling said...

I was inclined to vote as you did but I think all our discussion lately on the Reformation led me to choose Martin Luther's posting the 95 Theses. I will be curious to see what others choose because I have read the Black Plague was a pretty key point too.

The Red Witch said...

I know what you mean. Breaking the power of the Catholic Church seems pretty important too since it owned the Middle Ages.

Tracy said...

I voted for other - The Black Death - it reduced England's population by a third and enabled many of the peasants who survived to demand higher wages, force down rents and vastly increase their standard of living - we had that oxymoron, upwardly-mobile peasants!

Anonymous said...

The Reformation movement was indeed very important and I think the Middle Ages fall lasted longer than one year or a decade. I picked the discovery of the New World but I meant it rather as a starting date. Perhaps the whole process did rather start with the Plague and social changes it forced on Europe. There as many theories as historians.

Anonymous said...

I chosed Martin Luther's 95 Theses as well. I think that's when people first started to reconsider the power of the Church and to actually think about what it was they believed in. Once that happens, there's no turning back.

That was a tough one...I think maybe all of those things occurring together helped bring the world out of the Middle Ages and into the Reformation.

Kristin

The Red Witch said...

LOL I like that - upwardly mobile peasants. One thing missing from the whole list is the granting of charters to cities. It was a means of breaking the power of the barons by the kings but it gave regular people a means of escaping serfdom. If you escaped from an estate and lived in a free city for a year, you became a free citizen.
They elected representatives and raised their own taxes and craved even more independence from nobility. You could even put the beheading of Charles I on that list as one of those moments that said the old way of doing things was over with.

hck said...

1348 (great plague) for me too.

Anonymous said...

The Great Plague was indeed the beginning of the end but the discovery of the New World was also very important - for the medieval people it must have been such a piece of news as if we have been announced a discovery of another planet, fully inhabited and rich to add - the known world was made twice as big as it had been before! Difficult to choose but the majority of changes did started with the Plague.

Bridget

The Red Witch said...

I asked my first year Prof who is a Medievalist what he would chose if he were voting and he opted for 1485. It was the end of the War of the Roses and Caxton printed Shakespeare.

Anonymous said...

As you see, every date has its fans. ;)

Bridget