History of the Middle Ages

UNDER the title of the Middle Ages is comprehended that period of history which succeeded the destruction of the Roman western empire and extended to the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century, when learning was revived in Europe. This period of about eight hundred years may be said to divide ancient from modern times. The early portion of the middle ages is sometimes styled the Dark Ages; for during this time the ancient civilization of Rome, a bequest from Egypt and Greece, disappeared, and ancient institutions perished, without anything better being substituted. The middle ages altogether differ from any other period in history. They may be generally described as an era of universal disorder, in which was maintained a struggle between force and reason. Old governments were broken up, and new ones took their place, only to be dismembered in turn. Literature sunk into obscurity, and was confined to the cells of monks. Slavery was universal, and was modified alone by the benign influence of Christianity. Gradually, as it will be seen, nations assumed a settled character, arts were discovered, and for military turbulence were substituted peaceful institutions. Much, therefore, as there is to deplore in the history of the middle ages, there is not a little to commend and be grateful for. We must view these ages as being the cradle of mode rn civilization, the era whence sprung much that we venerate in our institutions, much that distinguishes modern from ancient manners.