The concept of the European Dark Ages thus began as an ideological campaign by humanists to promote Classical culture, and was therefore not a neutral historical analysis.
The term "Dark Ages" was also in use, but by the eighteenth century it tended to be confined to the earlier part of this "medieval" period.
When modern scholarly study of the Middle Ages arose in the nineteenth century, the term "Dark Ages" was at first kept with all its critical overtones.
In Britain and the United States, the phrase "Dark Ages" has occasionally been used by professionals, with severe qualification, as a term of periodization.
Petrarch's ideological campaign to paint the Middle Ages in a negative light worked so well that "Dark Ages" is still in popular use nearly seven hundred years later.
To many users of the term, the scope of the "Dark Ages" was becoming divorced from this period, now denoting mainly the earlier centuries after the fall of Rome.