Middle Ages

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The Middle Ages or the medieval period, in European history, is a time period from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and the establishment of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire in the 9th centurs to the Renaissance (literally "rebirth") around the 15th century.


The term was invented by Italian Renaissance scholars, who saw themselves as reviving the learning and culture of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, after a dark millennium.

This view is arguably problematic, since, while the fall of the Roman Empire caused a decline during the early Middle Ages, by the late Middle Ages many kinds of European technologies had surpassed that of Ancient Rome and at least Eastern and Northern Europe had become far more developed regions than these regions had been at the time of the Roman Empire.

However, the approximate time of the end of the "Middle Ages" can be seen as a useful marker, since it was associated with several important developments, often ultimately due to new European innovations and technologies:

  • The Age of Discovery, notably the discovery of the Americas, causing effects such as European colonialism outside of Europe, thereby breaking free of the Islamic encirclement of Europe, and Europeans becoming much more prominent in world history.
  • End of feudal Europe, in part due to new military technologies making feudal armored cavalry and castles obsolete.
  • The Fall of Constantinople in 1483, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire.
  • The Reformation and the circulation of new ideas more generally ideas, helped by new technologies such as the printing press.
  • Abandonment of heliocentrism and other early beginnings of the Scientific Revolution.

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