The most recent issue of my Cambridge alumni magazine [sub. req'd.] has a great interview with Professor Helen Cooper about how the Middle Ages needs to be rescued from the ash-heap of history. She eloquently describes the effect of calling anything backwards, grim, or unpleasant "medieval," while attributing to the Renaissance all manner of wonderful things.
"No historical period simply finishes at one given moment....The influence of the medieval is pervasive and shaping right through to the middle of the 17th century and beyond. What I want to do is consciousness raising--so that people see what's too close up to them to notice."
Like: the invention of universities, double-entry book-keeping, mechanical clocks, the emergence of iconic fashion, and a representative democracy coupled with a parliament.
Preach it, Professor Cooper!