Writing about "the Dark Ages"

Updated: May 16, 2020

I'm not a historian, I am an author. That doesn't mean I don't care about the history - far from it. I try to be as accurate as I can be for whatever time period I am working in, even if the story is fantasy or supernatural. Nothing annoys me more as a reader when something sticks out as inaccurate to the times portrayed, so I'm sensitive to try to catch that in my own writing. Does it still happen? Probably.

The Dark Lady of Tintagel is set both in the late 600s and in the early 1980s. Having only lived through one of those time periods, that means research. What exactly does the term "Dark Ages" mean anyway? Conventional wisdom says that after Roman occupation ended in Britain in 410AD, the country descended into an age when literacy vanished, when civilization itself shrank until the Norman conquest of 106

6. Lost years, as it were. Little written history exists and lots of stories of first Saxon and then Viking invasions, warring chieftains and Romanized towns falling into ruin.

But is any of it true? From the research I have done so far, there is scant archaeological evidence to support Saxon invaders destroying local villages.

They seemed to live together, at least in eastern Britain without evidence of battlegrounds and mass graves.

There is evidence of language carved on stones all over Britain in the period - a lot of effort being put forth to leave a written record if there weren't pe

For example, look at this gorgeous shoulder clasp from the Sutton Hoo burial trove found in the UK in the 1930s. Nothing "barbaric" looking about this and just another example that maybe the time period isn't what we thought after all. I'll leave the revisions to the historians but I know for my own work, I am finding the time period to be richly interesting and I hope readers will find it that way too - along with a hefty dose of magic and time travel.

Want more about this time period? Check out my post about my inspiration for The Dark Lady of Tintagel - the heroine, Igraine.

Image from http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/Images/109images/Insular/Sutton_hoo/shoulderclasp.jpg

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