Ok... the dark ages. This is going to be a hell of a project, so let’s talk about what we know, what we don’t and why. I want you to be able to trust the stories I’m telling you, and so it’s required that I let you know how unreliable damn near every source we have from this period is. Lately there’s been a rash of people complaining about how this podcast includes speculation. Well, if it bothered you in days of Romano-Britannia, you’re going to lose your minds over what we have coming. So lets talk about our ignorance!
The most important thing for us to know as we enter this period, is that we know very little. Much of the scholarly work of this era involves carefully examining the rare sources we locate and trying to tease out minutae. It’s a situation that’s fraught with peril, and it’s an issue that we’ll be talking about in this episode.
But it isn’t just a scarcity of sources that we are dealing with, which I’ll talk about in a couple minutes, we also have a tremendous amount of bias we need to overcome. What I mean by that, is that we have been retelling stories for generations that we’ve just come to accept as true regardless of whether or not they are factually based. Take the fall of the western Roman Empire as an example. You’re probably assuming that it was a bad thing. And you wouldn’t be alone. Until very recently, the Middle Ages were tainted by the assumption that the fall was a manifestly terrible event for europe. A thought like that makes objectivity pretty hard to maintain. And consequently, much of the focus of study of that period was placed upon national origin myths and cinderella stories rather than examining the cultural differences that occurred and whether or not these dark ages really were all that terrible for the people in the long run.
So before we launch into a discussion of the Dark Ages and its sources, let’s do what we can to exorcise the assumption that this was a cultural decline and come at it with a fresh set of eyes.Click here to be able to read the full rough transcript.