The ‘Dark Ages’, from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century through to the beginning of the medieval era in the eleventh century, have often been crudely depicted as an era of mass illiteracy, ignorance and of terrifying heathen hordes swarming across the European continent, leaving devastation in their wake.
Covering the period of the so-called Barbarian invasions, the Vikings, the break-down of urban centres and population decline in Western Europe, it also included the papacy of Gregory the Great and the reigns of Charlemagne and Alfred the Great. Feudalism, monastic life and the spread of Christianity across Western Europe developed as the Roman Empire continued in Byzantium. From the seventh century, the Muslim Arab conquest of North Africa and Iberia challenged the Christian West.
Martin J. Dougherty’s History of the Dark Ages tells the story of this fascinating but much misunderstood period in medieval history. Following the fragmentation of the Western Roman Empire and re-emergence of unity under Charlemagne, the political dominance of the Catholic Church, the raiding, trading and settling of Saxons and Vikings, the book expertly reappraises the early Middle Ages.