I apologise in advance for the length of this post and that it is only vaguely Civ related. However I have something I want to get off my chest and I hope you find it interesting... How History is Written. or The Dark Ages Weren't so Dark. I apologise for the length of this thing: even then this is very simplistic. Most of you are perhaps aware of the historical period called the 'Dark Ages' but how many of you know how this name came about? To answer this question reveals something about HOW history is written and is something I wish people would appreciate before they spout some rubbish they picked up from the discovery channel. Before I go any further I should perhaps put the Dark Ages in their historical context. Roughly speaking there are nine ages in WESTERN history: don't take this too seriously, different historians may produce different tables - there is no right or wrong, just so long as you understand things chronologically. So here is my rough interpretation: Pre-History Stone Age Bronze Age Iron Age The Ancient World Dark Ages } Medieval }==========these two are often grouped as the Middle Ages Early Modern (the brief period known as the renaissance crosses over with the Medieval) Modern Now, so you have an idea of dates, here you go... Modern - 1789 till Present. Early Modern - 1453 till 1789. Medieval - 1066 till 1453. Dark Ages - 476 till 1066. Those of you who know your history will know that each of those dates corresponds with a major event. They are: 'Fall' of the Roman Empire (476), Norman Conquest of England (1066), Fall of Constantinople (1453), and French Revolution (1789). All these dates and events are hotly disputed as markers - I merely used them because they are the commonest. Also these historical ages, they are entirely invented! People never woke up one morning and proclaimed - so now we are in a new age woohoo! Modern Historians invented them all. So now, after that little side track why were the dark ages so named? It is often supposed by many that the Dark Ages in particular and the Middle Ages in general were the stupid ages when women were burnt as Witches, people thought the Earth was flat and thinking of any kind (except religious thought) was surpressed. UTTER RUBBISH. Firstly not one Witch trial occurred during this time. Funnily enough Witch trials began in most counties about the same time Renaissance ideas caught on. In other words Witch trials go hand in hand with the arrival of more 'modern' thinking and learning. Funny huh? Joan of Arc (coincidently) DID NOT stand trial for Witchcraft. She was accused of being a Heretic. Also her trial was entirely political, as most heretics upon conviction would not be burned (the Church seeked conversion not death.) (See any work by Witchcraft experts E. Monter or Stuart-Maxwell if you don't believe me). There was no persecution (not as we know it. Like Nazi persecution of Jews for example) during the dark ages. Why not is very simple if you think about it. There were NO states to persecute people for anything. This might be a little hard to understand for us modern people used to living in modern national states. But they didn't exist in Europe in this period. Sure there were Kings and Lords and feudalism and what not. But this is an exceptionally basic form of society. Who ever was strongest would be King. He would get money from his immeadiate lands (basically by crude extortion). His best and most trusted men would become Lords and he would give them Land to live off. They might then sub-divide their land to their men (or sons). That was your Kingdom. No Hospitals, no schools, no tax collection (not in a modern sense), no Police, no road building, no nothing. When the King went to war he would summon his Lords, who in turn summoned their men - hey presto! a band of Knights. I hope I am getting across how simple society was then. As for people outside this ruling elite their were three types: Women - didn't count and produced children. Peasants - didn't count and produced food and money for their Lord. And the Church. Generally only priests could read and write (and add). A King needed the Priesthood to supply him with fellows to do his basic accounts. Now we are getting close to why the Dark Ages are called the Dark Ages... See because so few people could write, very few written sources survive to this time to tell us what happened. So Historians called it the Dark Ages because lacking sources from this period it appears to them as 'A DARK AGE'. In the Roman Empire, for example, there were lots of Schools and many people could write. So even though it existed before the Dark Ages, we know FAR more about it. Because this is how Historians work - they write History based upon archeological evidence and written sources. Now, to use a written source (lets say it's a Roman one) you have to be able to READ the source. So if it were Roman you must read Latin. If it's Greek you need to know Greek and so on. If it's in a long dead lanuage you need to somehow decode that lanuage - a very very difficult task (unless you have a 'rosetta stone'. This rock had the same passage inscribed on it in Greek and Ancient Eygption allowing us to decipher ancient Eygption.) There are some ancient lanuages we cannot decipher - therefore our knowledge of those people is severely restricted and they hardly feature in written History. Now here is something VERY important you must understand. England and USA have produced many Historians. What lanuage do they speak? English. They are all learned people so many no doubt know French and Latin. Many will know other modern European lanuages (German, Spanish etc.). How do you think this will effect the History they research? Yup: English (not Scottish or Irish) and American History mostly. Because if you go back far enough in the English records (generally all before 1400AD) they are all in Latin, many will know Latin. So they'll study the Romans as well. France is well served by it's own Historians and so are Germany, Spain and Italy. Much of this will be translated and shared among the various European historians. BUT!!! How many European historians do you suppose speak Japanese? Or Chinese? Or can read Sanskript? Or any Arabic lanuage? Not many. Look in any book shop in the History section (I did yesterday), how many Chinese History books do you see? (I saw none). There has been VERY little western research of other civilisations (Eygpt and the Holyland apart). So when our Historians come to write the History of the World where do you suppose they'll place the emphasis? On China who for the majority of History has been the most advanced and richest state in the World? Or will they write about what they know and present history in terms of the rise of the West? What is often not mentioned in Western History is that while Europe was in the dark ages - when few could read and write and civilisation had collapsed to a feudal level (yup feudalism is a simplistic form of society, lord knows why it is so far on in the Civ3 tech tree. Feudalism is basically warrior code.) - the rest of the world wasn't. There was no Dark Age in China or the Middle East. While Europe was barbaric they remained Civilised and continued making discoveries. They, for example, never thought the Earth was flat. The Chinese invented Gunpowder and Printing Press. The Sung Empire even built vast canals and FACTORIES (See recent Chinese Historical work summarised in English by Clive Ponting: they didn't have an industrial revolution because the Mongols invaded and destroyed everything. Recent estimates suggest a quarter of China's population died during the invasion: roughly equivalent to the death toll in World War 1). What we know as the 'Renaissance', or rediscovery of learning, occurred when trade links with the ARABS improved and WE gained access to THEIR knowledge. In History books the Dark Ages are often glossed over because we know so little about its events. The History of the rest of the World is often glossed over because historians know so little about it. Not because it was unimportant. Or, if you still believe Western History is so important - The Mongols possessed an army better trained and more numerous than anything Europeans at the time could dream of. Our little sub-continent would have been over run easily but for an event which occurred on the otherside of the world - the death of the Mongol Emperor. The Mongols left few written records and they rarely figure in western history to a large extent despite conquering the largest Empire of all time. (Some people think the Empire didn't last long. They are fools who should check historical fact.) So that is why the Dark ages were dark and why all the history you come across focuses on Europe. If you read the whole thing congratulations! For a good recent history of Europe try: Norman Davies, "Europe, A History" For the Dark Ages I recommend: Richard Fletcher, "The Conversion of Europe" Additionally try and consult books published in the last 10 years. Afterall you wouldn't get a computer book published in 1980 to learn C++ would you? Incidently I apologise for coming across as a know it all. I'm a final year History Student (4th year) at University and I merely wrote this for any who are interested. Don't take it as gospel, I only know enough about History to appreciate how little I actually know.