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Early Middle Ages

        Historians in the Romance languages (French, Spanish...) divide the Middle Ages into two parts: an earlier High and later Low period. English-speaking and German historians, generally subdivide the Middle Ages into three intervals: Early, High and Late.
     In the early 20th century, the following subdivisions were popularized: the Early Middle Ages (476-1000), the High Middle Ages (1000–1300), and the Late Middle Ages (1300–1453).

        So, the Early Middle Ages is the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately the 11th century, following the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceding the High Middle Ages (c. 1001–1300).
        The period saw a continuation of trends begun during late classical antiquity, including population decline, especially in urban centres, a decline of trade, and increased immigration. Later  in the period, the establishment of the feudal system allowed a move away from subsistence agriculture.

        The period has been labelled the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages seems to emphasize the cultural and economic deterioration that supposedly occurred in Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire.  But when the term "Dark Ages" is used by historians today, it is intended to be neutral, and expresses the idea that the events of the period often seem "dark" to us because of the scarcity of historical and other written records compared with both earlier and later times.

        The Dark Ages begin at the time of the fall of Rome, in 476 A.D. Rome's rule had lasted eight hundred years. In the place of Rome, barbarian kingdoms arose and ruled the West.
        The Eastern Holy Roman Empire of the East, based in Constantinople, still remains in the East.    But North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire, became Islamic.
        The Dark Ages were to rule over Europe until about 1000 A.D., with the birth of the Middle Ages and a recovery from artistic darkness as the lost knowledge of the Greeks and Romans was rediscovered.

        In Western Europe, the Germans dominated through tribes such as: Alamanni, Anglo-Saxons, Franks, Gepids, Goths, Lombards and Vandals. These barbarian peoples wandered across Europe. These tribes destroyed many of the buildings and works of art that survived from Roman times. Only in monasteries, cathedrals and palace schools was knowledge preserved and there were very few monasteries left.                                                                                                                           

    So, The Dark Ages in the West were marked by the illiteracy of the population and by the intensity of the growth in the Christian faith. During the Dark Ages, population decreased and economic life became more primitive.                                                                                            

    In Europe, barbarian kingdoms were constantly at war and the overwhelming majority of the population, the peasants, were at the mercy of these barbarian tribes, which basically gave the peasants no rights at all.                                                                                                             

    Many of these barbarian leaders embraced the glory of what had been Rome and converted to the Christian faith, thus many Roman institutions survived the barbarian rule in western Europe, especially under Frankish rule.                                                                                                      

    By the 600's the Franks dominated much of western Europe, reaching a zenith in the 800's under Charlemagne. However, Frankish supremacy did not last long before the Vikings ascended in Europe, leading to the Age of Feudalism, which would dominate European life for the next millenium.

        In Eastern Europe, the Eastern Holy Roman Empire, based in Constantinople, continued to burn the flame of Roman rule. Dominating the eastern Mediterranean, these Greek-speaking "East Romans", the Byzantines, continued to claim the right to rule the Western world, or Western Empire, as it was known.

        As Europe and the western world languished in the Dark Ages, the Muslims of the Middle East and Africa were studying the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans and improving upon their works.

The Middle Ages in 3 1/2 minutes