Periodization of the European Middle Ages

Picture of the European Middle Ages or Medieval history is founded on several, deeply held fallacies. The first and foremost is that the European Middle Ages is a single thing that can clearly be identified by the label. However, when you try to get people to define the start or end of the Middle Ages, there’s some problems. Did the period of Middle Ages start at the final sack of Rome? What about the continuation of the Roman Empire in Constantinople until the conquest of that city by the Ottomans in 1453? Were the Byzantine’s not a part of European culture? When does the “Renaissance” start? Do people wake up one day and say, whew!, today the Middle Ages ended? What’s the date?

European history until the XIII or XIV century AD is largely characterized by two main historical tendencies: constant disruption of populations and migration, and multiculturalism. For Europe is throughout most of its history a massively and aggressively multicultural society. Constant migrations continually change the cultural face of Europe bringing new languages, social hierarchies, and religions—these to be displaced by new peoples, new languages, and new religions. This constant flux only settled in the Mediterranean region—hence classical culture and its unique continuity. The early Middle Ages is dominated by migration, aggression, and multicultural ethnicity.

The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages. The most commonly given starting point for the Middle Ages is 476 AD when Western Roman Empire finally fell. For Europe as a whole, 1500 AD is often considered to be the end of the Middle Ages, but there is no universally agreed upon end date. Depending on the context, events such as Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas in 1492 AD, the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 AD, or the Protestant Reformation in 1517 are sometimes used.