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Re-Forging the ‘Age of Iron’
Part II: The Tenth Century in a New Age?



The tenth century, once dismissed as an unpleasant ‘Age of Iron’, now receives increased attention as an important age of transition. Historians are attempting to understand how it fits into the broader narrative of Western Civilization. Although some scholars have identified it as the last act of the post-Roman world, others see it as a new age. Perhaps the High Middle Ages with its agricultural and demographic revolution, its new villages and parishes, its revived cities, its reformed churches and schools, and its medieval monarchs began in the tenth century? Or were those changes not novelties of the tenth century but rather manifestations of a ‘take off’ that had already begun back in the Carolingian Empire, and which, despite the problems posed by late Carolingian wars and invasions, was able to continue, spread, and blossom into the growth and prosperity of the High Middle Ages? New scholarly interest in the tenth century has made it much less of a ‘dark age’, but scholars still are not quite certain how to conceptualize its historical significance.