Yes, it’s a misnomer but I can’t not love the sound of it. From Justinian’s shrunken, plague-ridden empire, fratricidal Merovingians, arrivist Ostrogoths and Lombards, Charlemagne’s Borgesian palace to North Sea skullsplitting on gore-soaked decks, it has a grand guignol feel other periods just can’t match.
The Dark Ages is simply a term of convenience, you’ll never stamp it out in favour of Early Medieval because the Romanist perspective won this argument a very long time ago. I too like this period in history and have had the pleasure of working on archaeological excavations that delved right into it. I’m very much fascinated by the whole Alfred vs Guthrum thing and, if I hadn’t have dropped out, was going to make that the subject of my thesis at uni.
It has a bleak glamor that’s hard to resist. I came to it as a boy, not via Tolkien’s sentimental, middle class cinder blocks but through Poul Anderson’s stark Broken Sword and Hrolf Kraaki’s Saga, and Hollanders’ translation of the Poetic Edda (still, I think, the best).
This is going to confuse monoglot Anglophones no end – ‘The High Middle Ages’ in English runs from the 11th Century to the 14th or possibly even the 15th Century. le Haut Moyen Age of course ends as the English version begins: c1,000AD (or CE if you feel so inclined). I love linguistic false friends.