The typical thought of the average person is that these Ages were Dark because Christianity was beating up on everyone and everything.
Defined various as the 10th to the 11th Centuries, the 5th through the 10th Centuries, the 6th through the 13th Centuries, 11 through the 13th Centuries, many modern scholars have done away with the label altogether. As well, in some undefined future, there will come a time when “it might not be possible to read historical digital documents” during a Digital Dark Age.
While it’s certain that the Church did some horrendous deeds between 600 AD and 1400 AD – things like the Crusades (1065 to 1291); the Inquisition (1300 to 1500); and perhaps even the Salem Witch Trials (part of a larger Great Witch Craze of Europe that lasted from the 15th through the 18th Centuries – the Dark Ages had little to do with the Church. What it DID have to do with was transmission of information.
According to the infinite fount of knowledge, Wikipedia says that the Dark Ages are characterized by “...the decline of the Roman Empire...light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the ‘darkness’ of the period with earlier and later periods of ‘light’...a relative scarcity of historical and other written records at least for some areas of Europe...the lack of Latin literature...of contemporary written history, general demographic decline, limited building activity and material cultural achievements...[and] a time of backwardness...”
As well, “there was no Rome of the kind that ruled the Mediterranean for centuries and spawned the culture that produced twenty-eight public libraries...As the West crumbled, books and libraries flourished and flowed east toward the Byzantine Empire...medieval monasteries began to accumulate large libraries. These libraries were devoted solely to the education of the monks and were seen as essential to their spiritual development...the Imperial Library of Constantinople had 120,000 volumes and was the largest library in Europe. A fire in 477, 726, and 1204 consumed the entire library…and in 1453...Constantinople fell...[by] the 7th century...many of [the library at Thomaites Triclinus]’s contents were subject to destruction as religious in-fighting ultimately resulted in book burnings...During this period, small private libraries existed. Many of these were owned by church members and the aristocracy. Teachers also were known to have small personal libraries as well as wealthy bibliophiles who could afford the highly ornate books of the period...the library at Vivarium was dispersed and lost within a century…By the 9th century public libraries started to appear in many Islamic cities...many of these libraries were destroyed by Mongol invasions. Others were victim of wars and religious strife in the Islamic world. However...the libraries of Chinguetti in West Africa, remain intact and relatively unchanged. Another ancient library from this period which is still operational and expanding is the Central Library of Astan Quds Razavi in the Iranian city of Mashhad, which has been operating for more than six centuries…The contents of these Islamic libraries were copied by Christian monks in Muslim/Christian border areas, particularly Spain and Sicily. From there they eventually made their way into other parts of Christian Europe. These copies joined works that had been preserved directly by Christian monks from Greek and Roman originals, as well as copies Western Christian monks made of Byzantine works. The resulting conglomerate libraries are the basis of every modern library today…Buddhist scriptures, educational materials, and histories were stored in libraries in pre-modern Southeast Asia. In Burma, a royal library called the Pitaka Taik was legendarily founded by King Anawrahta; in the 18th century...‘his Birman majesty may possess a more numerous library than any potentate, from the banks of the Danube to the borders of China’. In Thailand libraries called ho trai were built throughout the country, usually on stilts above a pond to prevent bugs from eating at the books.’”
So…the Dark Ages were anything BUT dark! There were setbacks as well as advances, but overall, the current opinion that “many modern scholars who study the era tend to avoid the term altogether for its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate for any part of the Middle Ages”.
As to a fear of a Digital Dark Age? There’s very good evidence that no matter WHAT the technophillic Developed Country technophiles think…if the internet suddenly blew up, all smartphones melted down, and a massive, alien-induce Electromagnetic Pulse wiped out all “soft” data systems, we would not INSTANTLY plunge into a knowledgeless, helpless, hopeless, disconnected, vapid Dark Age.
If the Mongol Hordes couldn’t destroy all information, then I doubt very much that the loss of the Internet will precipitate such an event, either. Your insights?