It was first used when people began to see a contrast between the brilliance of Europe during the time of Roman Empire, the “light” period, and the sudden deterioration during the centuries after the collapse of Rome. Throughout the time of Roman occupation in Europe, the European economy and culture were thriving. However, when the Empire collapsed in the first millennium AD, Roman influence throughout Europe began to dwindle considerably. The rapid drop in development of Roman ideology was not only limited to their economy, the various fields of science (e.
g. mathematics & medicine) that the Romans tinkered with was also affected. The Dark Ages lasted for about nine centuries (600-1500AD). For the first half of this era there was a steady decline within Europe in terms of the sciences and philosophical writings, However, I believe that the apex of this all-time low in Europe was the Black Death (also known as the Black Plague.
The Black Death was caused by a bacterium (Yersinia pestis) that was carried in fleas that travelled to Europe on the backs of rats that snuck aboard international trade ships around 1347.
The Black Death quickly spread from various port-cities in the south of Europe throughout all of Europe. Eventually the Black Death would wipe out a third of the European population before the devastation of this bacterium is almost extinguished about a century after the plague first hit the shores of Europe. The Black Death or Black Plague is, for me, one of the most defining characteristics of the Dark Ages. However, the Black Death did have some rather interesting things come out of it.
For instance, I know that the connotation of calling bad doctors “Quacks” comes from the Black Death as doctors during the Dark Ages thought that the Black Death spread through touch and covered themselves in large heavy black cloaks and a mask shaped like a duck’s head with a sponge soaked in Vinegar skewered on the end of the bill to prevent themselves from being contaminated. And the nursery rhyme Ring-a-ring-a-Rosie derived from the Black Death as people used to carry sweet smelling flowers (e.g. Roses) to mask the ever present scent of death and decay. Although the Yersinia Pestis virus has not been fully eradicated (PubMed.com, 2004) modern medicine has managed to subdue most of the fatal ability of this bacteria.
However, in contrast, Ming Dynasty China was relatively more sophisticated compared to Europe during the early fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Ming sciences (particularly those of mathematics and medicine) were far more advanced than their European counterparts. Unlike some European countries education was widespread for both men and women. During the Ming Dynasty China were also the first develop the woodblock printing press, as a result of this, China was able to publish large amounts of books during this period.
For the Europeans during the ‘Dark Ages’ these times were indeed dark and dreary, things were however, picking up in other parts of the world. For me personally, I believe that had the Dark Ages not occurred, Europe’s standing as a modern superpower would not, and could not have occurred as I believe that the ‘Dark Ages’ was the forerunner of the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution could not have been possible. Europe’s status as a superpower and (at one stage home to three biggest empires throughout history), the world would not have advanced as whole as it has in this day and age.
Bottaro, J. Visser P. Worden N, In Search of History Grade 10 page 27 Bottaro, J. Visser P. Worden N, In Search of History Grade 10 page 12 Bryant, G. The Dark Ages: Where They Darker Than We imagined?[posted:September 1999] http://gchbryant.tripod.com/Articles/darkages0999.htm,[accessed:28January2013] MedNet.com,DefinitionOfTheBlackDeath,[updated:April27th2011] http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2470,[accessed:January28th2013]
History Channel, Black Death, first aired 2009
Oxford English Dictionary (2ed.) Oxford England: Oxford University Press 1989
[ 1 ]. Oxford English Dictionary (2ed.) Oxford England: Oxford University Press 1989 [ 2 ]. Bryant, G.,TheDarkAges:WhereTheyDarkerThanWeImagined?,[posted:September1999], http://gchbryant.tripod.com/Articles/darkages0999.htm,[accessed:28January2013] [ 3 ]. Bottaro, J.,Visser P., Worden, N, In Search of History Grade 10 page 27 [ 4 ]. MedNet.com,DefinitionOfTheBlackDeath,[updated:April27th2011], http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2470,[accessed:January28th2013] [ 5 ]. History Channel, Black Death, first aired 2009
[ 6 ]. Bottaro, J. Visser P, Worden, N, In Search of History Grade 10 page 12