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Frequently Asked Questions

Medieval History Topics

When did the Middle Ages start and end?

Why is it called "The Middle Ages" and "Medieval History"?

What was it like to live in the Middle Ages?

I have questions about King Arthur.

How did people react to the approaching millennium in 1000 A.D?

Someone forwarded me this email containing "facts" about the Middle Ages. Is any of it true?

 

When did the Middle Ages start and end?
    The answer to this question depends on which source you consult. The most common dates are 500-1500 CE., but not all views of the era agree. For an in-depth look at the many ways the Medieval Era can be delineated, visit your Guide's feature,
Defining the Middle Ages.
    In order to help students who are researching a broad span of time, the Medieval History site currently covers topics ranging from the late fifth century to the year 1700. If you are looking for information that does not enter into this span of years, or if you are interested in pre-Columbian American history, please visit the appropriate
About.com history site.

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Why is it called "The Middle Ages" and "Medieval History"?
    The easiest answer is that it refers to those centuries between the ancient and modern age -- in the "middle." The word "medieval" is Latin in origin and means "pertaining to the middle ages." This, of course, is a radical simplification, but it's a decent starting point.

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What was it like to live in the Middle Ages?
    This is by far the most frequent question that visitors to the site ask me, and it is the most complex one to answer.
    The Middle Ages lasted for well over a thousand years, and during that time Europe, Asia and Africa encompassed hundreds of different cultures and societies. It would be ludicrous to think that 10th-century Vikings conducted their lives in the same way that 15th-century Venetians did. Therefore, when learning about "daily life," it's important to narrow it down to a century (or even a few decades), a geographical location, and a cultural group. What life was like also depended on the gender, wealth, and social status of the individual as well as his role in society.
    I have collected an extensive set of links on
Daily Life that will help you find more information about some aspects of everyday life in some areas and eras. Also, be sure to check out your Guide's selection of the Top Medieval Daily Life Books, where you'll find the titles and authors of several exceedingly helpful books on this subject.

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I have questions about King Arthur.
    If you are looking for info on Arthurian legend, see our subject index for
Arthurian Studies.
    You may have heard that the legendary King Arthur is based on a "real King Arthur" who lived sometime in the early middle ages. If you would like to explore some of the theories about who the "real"; Arthur may have been, and examine some of the pertinent primary sources available on the web, visit our subject index for the
Historical King Arthur.
    If you are new to Arthurian topics or have any questions about this subject, please begin with your Guide's feature,
The Truth of Arthur.

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How did people react to the approaching millennium in 1000 A.D?
    It's important to remember that the huge majority of people who lived in the tenth century had no concept of the significance of the date. Only those who lived in what is today Europe and who followed the Christian calendar would recognize the meaning of a thousand years since the birth of Christ. Of those people, only those who conducted theological research -- primarily monks and high-ranking clerics -- would find any apocalyptic significance in this time frame. Most common folk had no idea what year it was, and didn't care; there was no mass fear, hysteria, or rioting.
    Whether or not there was a general sense of oncoming apocalypse among the educated is debated among historians. You can get some points of view from the links and suggested reading at the end of my
review of The Last Apocalypse.

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Someone forwarded me this email containing "facts" about the Middle Ages. Is any of it true?
    No.
    Every so-called "fact" put forward in this joke has been addressed in our feature
The Bad Old Days.

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