Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Apparently the worst year to be alive.  It sure sounds it.  Notice at the end of the article that over a century later there is evidence of the rise of the merchant class for the first time, in 660.  Which they can tell from ice cores. Okay, I'm in.

There is a renaissance-before-The Renaissance theory of European development that looks for earlier and earlier signs of when the traditional Renaissance (eh, about 1300) began.  I like it, even while chuckling at it. CS Lewis's belief was that Medieval and Renaissance traits were continuous, with no sharp break.  His view was not favored during his lifetime.  It has gone in-and-out of fashion since then. Not that I am suggesting that historians are slaves to fashion, or anything like that. Other historians have thought that the so-called "Dark Ages" were very short, if they existed at all, and are continuous with Medieval attitudes.

Everyone knows that history is largely continuous, not sharply delineated, and even when dramatic events such as the Crusaders encountering Mediterranean art, customs, and science change the mix back in the home town, the result is usually only observable in retrospect. 1067 was actually not that different from 1066 on the ground. But somehow all of us, not just professional writers and historians trying to impose a structure, fall into the idea that the lines we draw have much meaning.  We have to have structure to understand anything at all, I suppose, so they are useful even if they are periodically destroyed.

So 660.  The first rise of the merchant class.  Mark it down.  It's the earliest date for the ren.-before-Ren. that I have seen.  The stirrup comes in the next century, and heck, the founding of America becomes inevitable.  A good writer could make it look that way, anyway.


james said...

1177BC might give it a run for the money.

Christopher B said...

Another thesis - The existence of an extended Dark Ages after the fall if Christian Rome and before The Renaissance was mostly Enlightenment propaganda to justify their anti-relgious attitudes.


Texan99 said...

There are moments with a good claim to dramatic change in the sense of a distinct change in direction or introduction of something new that will start small but end up disruptive. The effect often takes a long, long time to develop fully. We end up with good arguments for both dramatic and gradual change.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ James - I read that book and the theory has merit. I couldn't identify quite as closely with them, however. Both time and distance. One would think that 3000 years wouldn't be that different from 1500, and 3500 miles that different from 5500, but it seems to be so. Cultural descent, I think.

@ Christopher B - I don't even have to read the link. That was Lewis's view entirely. He called them "the writers who had the temerity to call themselves The Enlightenment." You will enjoy this lecture, I think. https://www.romanroadsmedia.com/old-western-culture-extras/DeDescriptioneTemporum-CS-Lewis.pdf

james said...

That there was some kind of collapse is pretty obvious. The old Roman wall in the parking garage by the cathedral in Geneva demonstrates that pretty dramatically. Good work with good materials at first, but repairs and extensions were substantially worse. Somebody described the end of Roman rule there as "one year the pay didn't come, and then the next, and the garrison disbanded and started farming."
And then the wars of the Franks, and the to and fro through Italy, wrecked the infrastructure and the economies. But I gather that communication with Eastern Rome never quite ended, and people went on pilgrimages and traded.