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I just read a terrific book - "Timeline," by
Michael Crichton. For those who enjoy a
good "historic" fiction. His wrap-up was
particularly relevant to my ever growing
understanding of the periods in which
I search for my ancestors.

"Our understanding of the medieval period
has changed dramatically in the last fifty
years. Although one occasionally still hears
a self-important scientist speak of the Dark
Ages, modern views have long since overthrown
such simplicities. An age that was once thought
to be static, brutal and benighted is now
understood as dynamic and swiftly changing:
an age where knowledge was sought and valued;
where great universities were born, and learning
fostered; where technology was enthusiastically
advanced; where social relations were in flux;
where trade was international; where the
general level of violence was often less deadly
than it is today. As for the old reputation of
medieval times as a dark time of parochialism,
religious prejudice and mass slaughter, the
record of the twentieth century must lead
any thoughtful observer to conclude that we
are in no way superior.

In fact, the conception of a brutal medieval period
was an invention of the Renaissance, whose
proponents were at pains to emphasize a new spirit,
even at the expense of the facts. If a benighted
medieval world has proven a durable misconception,
it may be because it confirms a cherished
contemporary belief - that our species always moves
forward to ever better and more enlightened ways of
life. This belief is utter fantasy, but it dies hard.
It is especially difficult for modern people to conceive
that our modern, scientific age might not be an
improvement over the pre-scientific period."

"Timeline" - Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, NY, 1999

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