Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shedding light on Dark Ages

For those readers in Melbourne, on Monday 24th at the Hollywood Palace, Bridge Rd, Richmond, I will giving a talk (starting at 7.30) on Shedding light on Dark Ages, where I will be looking at the Dark Age in Western Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 – 1050) and comparing it to the Dark Age in the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age (1210 BC – 800 BC).

The “blurb” for the talk is:

Dark Ages! Barbarians raging around looting and pillaging. Chroniclers wailing about death and destruction. Violence, mayhem, murder and the collapse of civilisation as they knew it.

For centuries, the received historical wisdom was the collapse of the Western Roman Empire under the barbarian invasions was a disaster that ushered in a Dark Age that Europe took centuries to recover from.

Then the great Belgian medievalist Henri Pirenne's (1862-1935) Mohammad and Charlemagne (1937) claimed that the new barbarian rulers changed little, that it was actually the Arab conquests of half the Mediterranean that so disrupted the Mediterranean world as to create the true collapse.

This thesis was extended so that, particularly as the European project (and mass migration to--rather than merely within--the West) took off, historians, began to dispute that one could talk of the "Fall" of Rome or a "Dark Age".

Was there a Dark Age in Western Europe? Did the Muslims do it really? Lorenzo will explain the concept of a "Dark Age" and look at the evidence.


  1. Sounds fab. I would love to go, except I live where the Dark Ages are very real; Sydney! :)

  2. I am refugee from Sydney myself :)

    (I am working on an essay for publication, "How to decay a city" looking at Sydney.)