Gimpel – “The Success of Medieval Technology” (Chapter 9 – Epilogue)

Whenever people reference the Middle Ages (also referred to as the Dark Ages), we generally begin to think about the Black Death (Plague) and the lack of innovation during that time. Even history textbooks “gloss-over” this time period, immediately shifting focus to the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution. However, in Chapter 9 of Gimpel’s The Medieval Machine, he focuses on the technological, political/policy, and social attributes of this timeframe.

Black Death – this is generally “the phrase” associated with the Middle/Dark Ages. While the first “half” of the Middle Ages were subject to the Black Death, the second “half” only dealt with the repercussions of the first. The term “Dark” is meant to connotate and represent the lack of intellectual stimulation and development over this time period [1]. However, Gimpel says that there were some developments in various categories – while those categories may or may not be seen as productive. For example, Gimple describes how people began pursuing “rigid” Christian/Catholic faiths and various forms of mysticism. In fact, many devout mystics believed the sins of humankind were the fault causing the Black Death, and thus publicly harmed/sacrificed themselves as offerings to atone for the sins of all [2]. This was new style of thinking developed from this era, as “old” Christians/Catholics generally didn’t condone self-harm as atonement; furthermore, this mindset and these actions were not beneficial and did not aid in restoring society. That said, this population could not have known the effect or lack thereof these actions would have at this time.

Even from a cultural dynamic, people during this time began believing in witches and sorcery, thus provoking mania and hysteria. The extent of this hysteria is similar to the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts during 1692. These trials took place in the village of Salem once a group of girls claimed to be possessed by the devil. During this event, hundreds of people were accused (most convicted) for practicing a form of witchcraft or sorcery; thus, the town eventually became even more stressed and hysterical from the massive number of accusations [3]. The same amount of hysteria was present in Europe during the Middle Ages, as just like the Salem Witch Trials, people were accusing each other of practicing a form of witchcraft or sorcery.

Furthermore, the economic situation of the Middle Ages was in the process of redefining itself. Massive population declines and food fluctuations caused huge oscillations in food prices, as much as 200% change [2]. Part of the reasons were from the Black Death, while others were from poor living conditions, and still others were from the feudal system and the various wars that had a massive impact on populations. Gimpel also mentions the Crusades and frequencies of wars forced feudal vassals and lords to sacrifice resources and labor as expense. This further affected the population standing and amount of finances and tribute available (as either taxes or support) thus destabilizing the economy further and further [4]. Any forms of “salaries” or payments were so inflated and non-uniform that general servants demanded to be paid the same as seniors or leaders. Only when the Renaissance arrived did the economy of Europe become somewhat stable.

With the exceptions of the mechanical clock, cast iron, and the suction pump, considering the Middle Ages as the Dark Ages isn’t a bad consideration. However, when all of the political/policy changes and social developments are taken into account, a lot of intellectual development did occur during this timeframe.


Word Count: 577



[1]”Migration period | European history”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 23- Oct- 2018].

[2]J. Gimpel, The Medieval Machine. Westford, Massachusetts: Penguin Books, 1976, pp. 199 – 252.

[3]H. Editors, “Salem Witch Trials”, HISTORY, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Oct- 2018].

[4]”Medieval Life – Feudalism and the Feudal System – History”, History On the Net, 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Oct- 2018].

Prehistoric Technology and the Ancient World (Neanderthals) by C. Warner

Prehistoric Technology and the Agricultural Revolution

  1. Bernard Carlson

While this article includes a broad timeframe of events (15billion years ago to 8,000 years) this synopsis will focus on the analysis of Neanderthals.

The title “Neanderthal” is a highly derived descriptor of the Australopithecines family and developed in parallel time to Homo sapiens (aka. US!) Neanderthals had physical characteristics tailored to colder climates – short gruff bodies, additional strength, insulated tissue – while also retaining technological advancements developed by ancestors.

Once the Ice Age began to end approximately 11,700 years ago, the population count of Neanderthals decreased as well. A possible reason for this extinction is hinted in this article: as the worlds climate began changing drastically, the Neanderthals were unable to adapt quick enough. Another reason could be the resulting competition of resources between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals during this global change (Why did the Neanderthals die out?) While Neanderthals were more adapted to close-quarter combat than their Homo sapiens counterparts at this time, the differences in intelligence and technology could have swayed the tide in Homo sapiens favor. Neanderthals were developed for a brute-force lifestyle utilizing strength as their main advantage; in contrast, Homo sapiens began developing a cunning sense of intelligence to better “outsmart” their prey/competition.

Overall, the Neanderthals developed from early humans and adapted to colder climates during the Ice Age. While the true reason (or reasons) for the Neanderthals collapse is unknown, we do know that once the Ice Age ended the steady decline of Neanderthals followed.


Written by Corwin A. Warner

Word count: 241 (Not including header or additional content below)


*For those interested in an additional source describing another theory why the Neanderthals disappeared, click the following link. Do be warned the jokes are crude and some may find the content offensive. Viewer discretion is advised.*