Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why the Dark Ages Weren't Dark II

For a few years now, I've been producing headwords for an encyclopedia for a publisher on the Early Middle Ages in NW Europe, roughly 300-1100. The headword lists are huge. There is just simply too much to include and consider, all the more important since the perception is that nothing interesting or important happened in that period (or at least from 400 on). In the meantime the editor at the publisher has produced some other encyclopedia on other topics and has now soured on the idea of riding heard on 600-1000 articles of varying length between two covers. Instead the project has shifted gears to more of what I would call "state of the field" essays in a 600 page volume. And considering the size of my lists of headwords, this is probably the best thing to do. So I've proposed the following loose and general breakdown to be tightened up as I go along. What even this loose program demonstrates, even in its incomplete state, is how much there is going on in this period. I also plan in the series of blog posts to address each of the topics in some way. And thanks Steve for the nudge! I'll try and post as often and much as I can.

Late Antique and Early Medieval NW Europe: an overview of the region in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries that will include an overview of the current debate about the "fall of Rome", but will also include discussion of non-Roman regions as well as specialized focus on Britain, Brittany, and Gaul. A large part of this will be archaeological as well.

Religion: This article will address and span the late antique and early medieval issue, talk about paganism and Christianity and the achieved synthesis, the conversions, monasticism, the holy man, the peregrinatio, the role of church leaders in their kingdoms, political theology, etc etc. I placed it here since it easily spans the period and the region and holds the whole together so to speak

Ethnography, Ethnogenesis, and the Peoples of Early Medieval NW Europe: as the title indicates, this one discusses the problems of identifying ethnicities and peoples and who is who, cultural anthropology of regions and peoples, etc.

Linguistics and Languages: a discussion of the development of the vernacular languages; Latin to Romance, Latin as literate language, the problems with Old English and the Celtic substrata's lack of influence on the language, how medieval thinkers thought of their language, Pictish, Celtic languages and their survivals, other related issues.

Political History and Institutions: as it sounds, overview of the primary events, focus on the political institutions, though, since in such a short space a discussion of the political history of all the regions would be far too much.

Social History: self-explanatory

Economy: trade, land and land use, cities, coinage, slavery as economic factor, etc.

Intellectual History: the major intellectual developments of the period, science, philosophy and theology, navigation, computistics, cartography/geography, political theology, technology, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, etc.

Literature: primarily an overview of genres: heroic, hagiographic, epistolary, sermons, biblical literature, exegesis, scientific, etc. orality

Writing Systems, Palaeography, Epigraphy, and Codicology: the development of these three over the period, ogam, runes, Latinate alphabets, writing in the vernacular, writing in Latin, principle scripts, manuscript construction

The Arts: the non-literary arts, metal-working, glass, painting (outside of mss), music and performance, wood working, ivory, personal ornamentation, instruments, music in the church, music in other contexts, textiles, architecture, etc.

Concluding Essay: The Myth of the "Dark Ages"

Input? Stuff I've missed?

1 comment:

Derek said...

I must say that I like the placement of the religion section for the reasons you mentioned. The content sounds good too. Nice job!