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Europe’s Dark Age: Cultural, Economic and Intellectual Decline
During the period from 400 C.E. to 1400 C.E. Europe entered what we now call a “Dark Age”. During this time, Europe lacked strong central leadership which made the region both unstable and unsafe. Learning came to an almost complete halt, and standards of living within Europe drastically declined. The aftershocks of the collapse of the late Roman Empire and subsequent lack of a strong central government weakened the States of Europe which caused a deterioration in the quality of life, decline in learning, and Europe’s entering into a “Dark Age”.
During Europe’s Dark Age, the states of Europe’s suffered both internally and externally. First, Europe faced troubles as crime ran rampart across the region. Highway robbers stole and looted from traveling merchants and civilians making travel and transportation unsafe. This caused a decline in trade and commerce as less and less people were willing to risk moving from settlement to settlement to trade. With many unable to access goods through trade, Europe’s economy suffered and manufacturing declined due to a lack of markets, and consequentially many people were forced into poverty. These people in turn often became criminals themselves, thus creating a vicious cycle and further worsening Europe’s economic situation. Next, in addition to troubles within Europe, there were also many threats for foreign powers. Vikings and Arabs often attacked and raided Christian towns and communities killing, looting, and destroying entire towns and settlements. These attacks made people live in constant fear, and the destruction and disruption from the attacks further added to Europe’s economic troubles. Life within European settlements became not only unpleasant, but also unstable and unsafe. Finally, Europe also faced a decline in learning during its Dark Ages. With large cities and many educational institutions destroyed from barbarian attacks, education became a privilege run by the Church and accessible to only an exclusive few. As a result, in addition to there being a lack of intellectual and scientific advancement, Europe actually began regress in terms of knowledge as people began to forget the teachings of their ancestors. This created the opposite of enlightenment, as instead of advancing and increasing their knowledge, Europe went “dark” as learning declined and knowledge was lost.
In all, during the Dark Ages, Europe entered a period of “backwardness” as the state of affairs and quality of life rapidly declined. Violence, poverty, and ignorance were all prevalent as Europe was faced with both external and internal troubles. Shaken from the foundations of civilization that their ancestors had built, Europe fell into a state of disorder and was unable to effectively function.