History

The Dark Ages have got a bad press

It is popularly held as a period when Britain and the rest of the world fell into a deep decline.

But according to the British Library, the Dark Ages were anything but.

The curator of a new exhibition has suggested the term unfairly maligns a time of great creativity and enlightened thinking.

This is largely true. You might quibble with the ‘enlightened thinking’ claim to some degree, but in general the depiction of the Middle Ages as the ‘Dark Ages’ is simplistic nonsense.

Dr Claire Breay said that objects in the “once-in-a-generation” exhibition, which opens on Friday, show that Britain was sophisticated and pioneering …

“We are trying to show the public and encourage them to engage with the literary and artistic evidence of the [Anglo-Saxon peoples’] complex and sophisticated lives.”

At the time, she said, Britain lead the world in areas such as poetry, shown by texts like Beowulf, medicine, and organisation of land and taxes, which is shown by the Domesday Book.

Hmmm. Let’s just say that the suggestion that the Domesday Book was an Anglo-Saxon achievement (or any sort of achievement at all) is not going to be agreed by everyone.

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