HOT TOPIC: Middle Ages
Volume 1, Issue 25 - March 13, 2005

"As the might of the Roan Empire began to bow to waves of more primitive peoples from the east, much of the known world was plunged into a time of decentralization and isolation. Where there had once been a standardization of culture and knowledge across much of Europe there was now a sense of local community. Towns grew up around the castles of local lords and learning was relegated to secluded monasteries and abbeys. With Rome no more history marked a new chapter in mankind’s journey, the middle or dark ages.

This time in our history is critical because it is the single link between the great civilizations of Greece and Rome and our modern western tradition of democracy. While the middle ages themselves left small collections of people to exist through their own means and customs, it was also an incubation period for the rebirth of culture and learning, the renaissance. This prompts many intriguing questions about how such institutions as Greek drama and the Roman papacy survived through these centuries, and even how someone such as William Shakespeare was able to emerge as one of the great writers of the English renaissance with little or no apparent formal education.

All this having been said, the middle ages are a time of great romance and mystery, which makes it a popular topic for literature and film even today. Perhaps it is not so much the historical significance of these times that draws people to want to learn more; perhaps it is the sense of a lost age before the advance of enlightenment and industrialization. After all, if mankind was able to survive ignorance, poverty, pestilence and plague during these thousand years, all the while creating music, art, poetry and literature, perhaps we are not yet lost in our own complicated modern times. Perhaps the middle ages weren’t so dark after all.

The recommended links for this week cover a variety of formats, from simulations and virtual tours to text-based references to subject-specific topics from the year 600 AD through the 1600s. The middle ages and renaissance are both included in this edition as two complementary epochs within a thousand year period of time. While many of these sites can be adapted for student use K-12, two in particular are best suited for elementary and middle school use. I know you’ll find something you’ll enjoy! ....."


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