The Dark Ages Reconsidered

by Peter S. Wells

I vaguely recall Ludwig von Mises, the famous free-market economist, writing that the Roman Empire fell because its economy was ruined by inflation and price controls. Because of the decrease in productivity, Rome was unable to fight back the hordes of barbarians attacking the empire.

Wells explains how grave goods, artifacts, soil analysis, etc. gives a better picture of the emergence of Western civilization than the writings of pro-Roman fanatics like Gibbons, St. Jerome, Augustine, etc. For example:

If the stories recounted by the Dark Age writers were historically accurate, we would expect to find abundant material evidence for the arrival and settlement of new groups in different parts of Europe, with new types of houses, new styles of pottery and metalwork, and new burial practices. We would also expect to find evidence of abandonment in the areas from which people were suposed to have emigrated. But we do not find these patterns to any appreciable degree. (p. 31)

I always thought that Germany and Scandinavia were the homelands of uncivilized warmongers that migrated south. Wells describes the development and changes that occured in farming villages throughout Europe:

Well beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire, on the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, the village of Verbasse was inhabited continuously from the first to the eleventh century....In the early period, the settlement consisted of 13 farmsteads...furnaces for processing iron were situated outside of the settlement... By the eighth century, changes in the layout of the settlement indicate a growth in population and important changes in the scale and intensity of economic activity in this village. (p. 136)

Very good read.