I read something confusing on Wikipedia and an answer on Stack Exchange today:

No terrestrial globes from Antiquity or the Middle Ages have survived.

Then two paragraphs later:

The earliest extant terrestrial globe was made in 1492 by Martin Behaim (1459–1537) with help from the painter Georg Glockendon.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globe

As far as I know, and just looked up "extant" means "still existing".

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Ages :

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or Medieval Period lasted from the 5th to the 15th century.

So, does that mean that any year over year 1400 is not considered the "Middle Ages"? I always thought of the the 1400s-1600s to be the "typical Middle Ages" era, perhaps going as far back as the 1200s... But anything beyond that always seemed like "ancient history" to me. But according to Wikipedia, the thousand years between year 400 and 1400 are the real "Middle Ages".

Can you offer any explanation other than pure ignorance as to why I have always held this to be true internally, even after probably many times reading such articles and being generally interested in history (although obviously not an expert by any stretch)?

  • 3
    The Renaissance is well underway in italy by the 1200's - and that's definitely not Middle Ages in any meaningful connection to the previous 6-700 years. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 11 '20 at 18:07
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    Ask ten historians when the middle ages end, and you'll get nine answers. The tenth will just refuse to say. – Gort the Robot Jul 11 '20 at 18:21
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    The OED gives two events, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the "the beginning of the Renaissance (14th cent.)". So there's one source giving two dates generations apart. The Renaissance itself is often said to start at different times in different places. – Gort the Robot Jul 11 '20 at 18:33
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    For a marxist historian, the Middle Ages ended around 1789. The Middle Ages are considered the period of feudalism which "ended" in Western Europe with the fall of the monarchy in France. Even then, feudalism didn't end in all of Europe since, for example, in Russia there were still serfs. Of course, these eras make no sense when we look at India or China. – Bernard Massé Jul 11 '20 at 19:41
  • Protip: You can actually answer a lot of definitional questions such as this from the tag-wiki of the tags applied to the question. This one IMHO could be more specific, but if you hover your mouse over it currently reads: "The Middle Ages is a periodisation of European history, encompassing the period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century." – T.E.D. Jul 11 '20 at 21:09

There's no single universal system of historical periodization that fits every event perfectly. The early modern period is typically considered to be, very roughly c. 1500 to c.1800. I think most historians would generally find it more logical to describe the invention of the terrestrial globe, Columbus' voyage etc. as early modern events rather than medieval ones, even they happened a little earlier than 1500. But context matters. If someone wanted to do a study of mapping in the late Middle Ages it would be natural to mention that first globe as part of the study.

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