Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


The designation "medieval" (and spell it right! -- m e d i e v a l -- points off from now on) comes from a term rendered in the corrupt Latin spoken since the Classical period: "medii aevi," meaning "middle ages." It's the Renaissance that decides on this term. The "middle" of what? The "middle" between the Classical period and the Renaissance.

That's rather dismissive, considering that the period spans roughly the years 500 - 1500 A.D. -- what the 19th century saw as "a thousand years without a bath." The medieval period still suffers from a lousy reputation (literally and figuratively), stemming from a persistent need for subsequent eras to feel superior despite their slim justifications. To call something "medieval" these days is equate its sophistication with that of rural Arkansas. And how come, as cultural periods, "Classical" (usually) and "Renaissance" (always) get capitalized, but medieval does not?

Lose your misconceptions. Witch torture was a Reformation phenomenon. The self-titled "Renaissance" did not rediscover culture and art after a millennium of barbarism.

A thousand years is a bit unwieldy, so historians have tended to fine-tune and subdivide the dating:

Internet Medieval Sourcebook -- from Fordham University.

Luminarium -- Site for English Medieval and Renaissance works.

Medieval Index