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When Was the Medieval Period?

By Angela Farrer
Updated: Feb 15, 2024

The medieval period lasted from approximately 500 Common Era (CE) until the year 1500 CE, although some scholars and historians debate these exact dates. This particular historical time period is also frequently called the middle ages for its role as a transitional time. After the Roman Empire's rule ended, the resulting ripple effects were political, social, religious, and artistic developments that formed a basis for the modern world. The study of medieval history is often considered important for understanding the forces that paved the way for other significant historical events that occurred in the centuries that followed.

Many historians agree that the early medieval period lasted until approximately 1000 CE and is noted as one of the most turbulent parts of the middle ages. Leaders of the Roman Empire began losing political control over their various territories relatively quickly, and their effectiveness at ruling began to deteriorate due to factions, internal rivalries, and personal agendas. One of the defining actions of early medieval history was the removal of Romulus Augustus from power, as this emperor was the very last of his kind in the region that is now western Europe. The following time period is usually designated the high middle ages and is known for the holy crusades that resulted in Christian armies taking control of Jerusalem from Muslim rule.

Legalization of Christian religious practices led to the widespread influence of this church in many facets of life during the medieval period. The previous era of Roman Empire rule is often noted for active persecution of Christians, and this trend shifted significantly during the early years of the medieval period. Changes in belief systems from a polytheistic to a monotheistic religion centralized large populations that were otherwise at odds culturally and politically. Religious leaders from the Catholic church were instrumental in making written materials such as the Bible available to the general population and in encouraging higher percentages of literacy.

The late medieval period is generally designated the time frame from 1300 to 1500 CE. This segment of the middle ages saw both upheavals in medieval society and technological advances in instruments of war and farming. An epidemic of plague decimated Europe's population by as much as 60% in as little as two years during the mid-1300s, leading to social consequences such as the persecution of Jewish populations as scapegoats. Other key changes of the late medieval period include several wars and conquests that shifted areas of political control.

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Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Jan 21, 2015

As the article mentions, this was a time of tremendous change for the world as a whole. Western civilization basically had to rebuild itself after the fall of Rome, Europe really took shape and London and Paris both came into their own as world cities during this time.

I've always thought the medieval period was a fascinating time to study. I'm kind of a student of English history, and the political maneuverings in England during this time were some of the most elaborate of any time in the country's history. Plus, it's always interesting to see how ordinary people lived during a particular period.

By Scrbblchick — On Jan 20, 2015

In English literature, we were always told the Middle Ages ended in England with Henry VII taking the throne from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The beginning of the Tudor Era was the end of the medieval period.

It's kind of interesting that people think there was very little art or literature produced during the medieval period. They think it all happened during the Renaissance, but there was a tremendous amount of literature written, at any rate. "The Canterbury Tales" came from the medieval period. But there were many other forms, like morality plays and epic poetry that came from this era, too.

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