Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/Emergence of the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages or Medieval Era is a period of history that spans roughly one thousand years between the 5th and 15th centuries CE. It is generally accepted to be the linking era between the Age of Classical Antiquity and the Modern Era (c. 1450-1789 is generally considered by historians as the "Early Modern Era"). Historiographically speaking, interpretations of the Middle Ages have drastically changed since the early 20th century, when it was often referred to as the "Dark Ages". Medieval historians believe it is misleading to label this era, even the immediate period following the collapse of the Roman Empire as a dark age. Much of the belief that the Middle Ages were steeped in superstition and ignorance comes from the Renaissance and Enlightenment Eras of European history, when thinkers became enamored by classical culture. They viewed the Middle Ages as a regression from that "high culture" and saw it as an age of overwhelming and blinding religious faith. However, medievalists would point out that thinkers of the middle ages surely championed the act of reason, laying the foundation for Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers to come.
It is important to note that generally when one speaks of the Middle Ages or the Medieval Era, one is speaking of Europe in this period. However, due to the fact that historical periods were more or less set by European scholars, "medieval" is an adjective generally used to describe this same period of time for other cultures and civilizations that did not go through the same dramatic changes Europe did following the fall of the Roman Empire.