This time the subject is the Middle Ages, and Mr. Black’s ignorance on the topic. Yes, yes, I know – not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But, as regular readers know, a rather important topic for me.
He dreams of time travel:
Time travel is an almost universal fantasy. And if I could snap my fingers and turn the pages of time, I’d be seriously curious to check out the thousand-year period between the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance.
Absent certain modern inconveniences, it would be an interesting time to visit.
Now, for the first fallacy:
They used to refer to this period as ‘the Dark Ages’ (though historians have since given up that moniker), a time when the entire European continent was practically at an intellectual standstill.
It is true that historians have stopped using the term. If he knows this much, one would hope he also knows the reason why. Alas, it is not to be.
There is a reason for giving up this moniker – the age wasn’t “dark.” Mr. Black’s characterization of an entire continent “practically at an intellectual standstill” for 1,000 years (can you imagine) is drastically incorrect. Consider the significant advancements in industrialization: all forms of mechanization, mills, advances in mining, the mechanical clock, irrigation practices, the development of the codex…and technically, movable type.
Now another fallacy:
The Church became THE authority on everything– Science. Technology. Medicine. Education. And they kept the most vital information out of the hands of the people… instead simply telling everyone what to believe.
Interpreting facts and observations for yourself was heresy, and anyone who formed original thought and challenged the authority of church and state was burned at the stake.
Villard de Honnecourt was in every way a da Vinci 250 years before the famous da Vinci. For all of his work in science and related fields, he wasn’t burned at the stake.
And the world was round as early as the thirteenth century, according to Brunetto Latini. Latini was afforded a burial in a most holy place in the church. This in contrast to the treatment of Galileo during the enlightening period of the renaissance, where he was denounced a heretic and lived under house arrest until his death in 1642.
Witch burning was almost unknown during this thousand year period – it only gained prominence at the end of the period and the beginning of the Renaissance. The church was rather tolerant of science; women owned businesses and held office; yes, there was serfdom, but slavery was almost eliminated (and a serf, whatever he was, was no slave – and he had many rights to which we, today, would be jealous); many other examples of a liberal society – far more liberal than the Rome that preceded it or the Renaissance that followed – are in evidence.
The change seems to have begun in the late 13th century and culminating in the mid- to-late- 14th century – driven by several events: the Condemnation of 1277 (yes, church driven); a devastating famine in 1315 – 1317; the Hundred Years’ War began in 1337 (a war between the by now centralized kingdoms of England and France – and not involving the still relatively decentralized central and eastern European lands); and the Black Death, from 1347 – 1350.
Of course, this corresponds with the beginning of the end of the decentralized society of the Middle Ages, and a return to the centralizing influences of Roman law. A very unfortunate occurrence.
I have no grandiose summary – after what Mr. Black has written about the nuclear bombing of Japan, his failures such as this one regarding the Middle Ages are minor.
Hopefully he researches his international and investment advice better than he did this topic.