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The 16th century was wracked by the Reformation and blessed by the birth of Shakespeare.The 17th century, rarely included within the medieval era, saw the Great Fire of London, a rash of witch hunts, and the Thirty Years War.
Over these centuries, Christianity spread throughout much of Europe, and the Papacy evolved into a powerful political entity.
The Early Middle Ages are also sometimes referred to as Late Antiquity.
By the end of the thirteenth century, Europe was at an economic and cultural height, perched at the verge of a downturn. The end of the Middle Ages can be characterized as a transformation from the medieval world to the early modern one.
It is often considered to begin in 1300, though some scholars look at the mid- to late-fifteenth century as the beginning of the end.
The High Medieval Era is the period of time that seems to typify the Middle Ages best.
Usually beginning with the 11th century, some scholars end it in 1300 and others extend it for as much as another 150 years.Though famine and disease had always been a lurking presence, the Late Medieval era saw the horrific results of both in abundance.The Black Death, preceded by famine and overpopulation, wiped out at least a third of Europe and marked the end of the prosperity that had characterized the high medieval era.And the reduction in population triggered economic and political changes that would never be reversed.The nobility, the clergy, the peasantry, the guilds—all were group entities that saw to the welfare of their members but put the welfare of the community, and their own community in particular, first.The comment has been made that all historical eras are arbitrary definitions and, therefore, how the Middle Ages is defined really has no significance.I believe that the true historian will find something lacking in this approach.This time period is usually viewed as beginning in the third century and stretching to the seventh century, and sometimes as late as the eighth.Some scholars see Late Antiquity as distinct and separate from both the Ancient world and the Medieval one; others see it as a bridge between the two where significant factors from both eras overlap.Generally, the medieval era is divided into three periods: the Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages, and the Late Middle Ages.Like the Middle Ages itself, each of these three periods lacks hard and fast parameters.