25 Common Misconceptions about the Middle Ages

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Because of the lack of widespread educational opportunity, the numerous recent advances in modern medicine, and the way it is portrayed in the media, we moderns have formed countless misconceptions about the middle ages. Here are 25 of the most common misconceptions that actually aren’t true.

25. Everyone was Ignorant

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While education was not available in the Middle Ages as widely as it is now, most of today’s leading universities, like Cambridge and Oxford, were founded in the Middle Ages. Exceptional philosophers, writers, and theologians such as Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Anselm also hail from this time period.

24. Europe’s Cultural and Social Fabric Deteriorated

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Historians assumed that a shortage of written records from this period meant that culture and society stagnated and intellectual, artistic and scientific achievement followed suit. More recently, as more texts have come to light, scholars have come to a consensus that both culture and society progressed in the “dark ages” even if it didn’t flourish like it did during the Renaissance.


23. Modern Historians Coined the Term “Dark Ages”

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The first time the phrase “Dark Ages” appears in the written language was actually in the 14th century when none other than Francesco Petrarca (e.g. Petrarch) used it to criticize Latin literature.

22. The Earth Is Flat

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Taking their science from the Egyptians who had already calculated the earth’s circumference, European scientists used mathematics to discover the earth’s shape and circumference themselves. Their calculations were so accurate that even modern science has lauded their efforts.

21. The Earth Is the Center of the Universe

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While theologians insisted that the earth lay at the center of the universe, many European scientists had diverging opinions. Though Galileo is famous for his battle with the Catholic Church, ending with him being put under house arrest, Copernicus had actually solved the puzzle of the earth’s location on the solar system almost 60 years earlier.

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