Now many people have an interest in the events of the past, in the history of their native country and other countries of the world. At the same time, the school course, due to the small number of academic hours devoted to history, often cannot give a person a clear and integral idea of the history of Russia and the world. And for understanding history, terms and definitions are very important, for example, such a frequently used one as “the Middle Ages”.
The term "Middle Ages" itself appeared during the Renaissance and became part of the concept representing the history of mankind as three stages - Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the New Age. Philosophers and humanists perceived the Middle Ages as "dark", that is, a period of recoil in social development compared with the flourishing of art and science in Ancient Greece and Rome. It took quite a long time for the Middle Ages to be perceived as an era that also made a great contribution to the development of mankind.
There is still no consensus about when the Middle Ages began and ended. In the historiography of the 19th century, the opinion was formed that the collapse of the Roman Empire can be considered the beginning of this period. The abdication of the throne of the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustus after the capture of the capital of the empire by the leader of the barbarian tribes Odoacer was chosen as the exact date. This event took place on September 4, 476. By this time, the Roman Empire was already divided into two parts, and in economic terms, feudal relations were becoming more widespread - the basis of the medieval economy. So the date of the beginning of a new historical period can be considered conditional.
The definition of the end of the Middle Ages raises even more questions. Modern Western historical literature suggests considering the Great Geographical Discoveries or the fall of Constantinople as the end of this era, while Marxist historians considered the English Revolution of the 17th century to be the beginning of the New Time. There are also researchers who defend the theory of the "Long Middle Ages", extending this historical period until the end of the 18th century. Such a spread in dates depends on what historians pay attention to first of all - on economic, political or cultural changes. In these spheres of social life, changes occur at different rates, which leads to the possibility of numerous interpretations.
It should be noted that this chronology is primarily related to Western Europe. The situation is different in Russian history. There was no antiquity on the territory of Ancient Rus, and the Middle Ages can be counted from the first chronicle mention of the Russian state, that is, from the vocation of the Varangians in 862. The end of the Middle Ages on the current territory of Russia can be considered both the formation of the Moscow state after the end of feudal fragmentation, and, according to a number of theories, the proclamation of the Russian Empire.
What is the difference between the Middle Ages and other historical periods? From an economic and political point of view, this was the heyday of feudalism - a socio-political system based on the connection between feudal lords and peasants. The peasants paid rent to the feudal lords for the use of their land in money or food, and, in turn, received military protection from them. In some cases, peasants were tied to the land and had no right to leave it. This custom was called "serfdom".
Feudal lords, in turn, also had complex social ties with each other based on personal loyalty. At the head of the medieval state was a duke, king or emperor - the chief feudal lord. Such a structure of the state determined a specific political map - Europe and Russia for most of the Middle Ages consisted of small independent states. This situation was called “feudal fragmentation”.
Religion played an important social and cultural role in the Middle Ages: Islam in the countries of the East, Christianity in the countries of the West. Atheism actually did not exist - every medieval person believed in God in one form or another. Religion guided the development of science and culture - chronicles and chronicles were created in monasteries, ancient scientific works were translated, and many works of art were created.
In general, modern historians have moved away from negative or positive assessments of the Middle Ages. But it should be noted that many phenomena of social life and elements of the state system that exist in modern times appeared precisely in this historical era.