Middle Ages, period in Western European history that followed the disintegration of the West Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th cent. and lasted into the 15th cent., i.e., into the period of the Renaissance. The ideas and institutions of western civilization derive largely from the turbulent events of the Early Middle Ages and the rebirth of culture in the later years. The importance of the Middle Ages has been increasingly recognized as scholarship based on newly published source material, archaeological findings, and studies of demographics and migration patterns presents more accurate and detailed analyses of events and trends.
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