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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Medieval and Renaissance Studies: Global Middle Ages

A guide to library resources for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

When did the Middle Ages End

Below is part of a Twitter thread, in which medieval scholars discuss the end of the Middle Ages in different areas. The examples included show that this is a difficult question to answer and that geography plays an important role.

What are the Global Middle Ages?

It is difficult to define "Global Middle Ages" when scholars are arguing about the term on two fronts: 1) whether or not the term is even acceptable to use and 2) if it is used, what it means and what it includes. We do believe that the term, even with its issues, is useful. The main goal of "Global Middle Ages" is to include a broader and more robust study of the medieval period beyond the borders of western Europe. While the world was not globalized in the sense it is today, there were many connections across the oceans and continents.

The efforts to define the "Global Middle Ages" so far focus on incorporating Africa, Eurasia, Asia, the Middle East and Levant, and the Americas within the existing field of medieval western Europe. Doing so requires interdisciplinary studies about the various interconnections that existed, including, but not limited to, topics such as: networks, trade, travel, religions, global cities, languages, pandemics, climate, and wars. One of the most difficult parts about defining the "Global Middle Ages" is that the "Middle Ages" are not clearly defined themselves. As the Twitter feed to the left shows, the Middle Ages ended at different times in different places; some say it ended at early as the mid-14th century, while others claim it did not end until the 17th century. For the sake of establishing a definition, we are going to say that the Middle Ages were from c.500 to c.1500.