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The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age Lecture

The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age

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Publisher's Summary

The study of Western Civilization traditionally follows a well-known but incomplete arc: the grand achievements of Greece and Rome, several hundred years of the Dark Ages, and then the bright emergence of the European Renaissance. But amid the "dark" Middle Ages, the Abbasid Empire, which ruled the Middle East as well as much of Northern Africa and Central Asia from 750 to 1258, serves as a vitally important but often overlooked bridge between the ancient and modern worlds.

The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age is your opportunity to get to know the story and the accomplishments of this great period in human civilization. Taught by acclaimed lecturer Eamonn Gearon, these 24 remarkable lectures offer brilliant insights into an era too often overlooked by traditional history textbooks. You'll meet a wealth of scholars, scientists, poets, and philosophers who paved the way for the Renaissance and continue to affect our world in surprising ways.

For instance, gain insights into:

  • The origins of the scientific method, along with the development of algebra, chemistry, physics, and astronomy as discrete fields of inquiry
  • The invention of the modern "teaching hospital" and a medical encyclopedia that served Europe for the next 600 years
  • The preservation and translation of the world's great literature, from the Hadith (or sayings of Muhammad) to the master works of Greece and Rome
  • Ontological philosophy that served future Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians concerned with the nature of God and the relationship between faith and reason

It is nearly impossible to overstate the power and importance of this crucial 500-year history, headquartered in Baghdad but stretching around the world. While much of Europe was quietly passing the time, the Abbasid Empire was an international, multicultural hub of trade, travel, education, art, science, and much more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Richard Malmö, Sweden 08-08-17
    Richard Malmö, Sweden 08-08-17 Member Since 2016
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    "You gotta get smart to see how dumb you are”."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    At first, I hesitated to select this title. Maybe like you, the current situation in many Islamic countries shaded my expectations of what could have been achieved a millenia ago. Now I know. It was enormous.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age?

    The scope is ambitious but it manages to sparkle as well. I loved the many, small portraits of the thinkers. E.g. a wily scientist who feigned insanity to escape execution by his sponsor. Or a poet who extolled the delights of getting drunk – in an Islamic country. Human genius, human nature.


    What does Professor Eamonn Gearon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I love the spoken word. To listen to a story told by a gifted storyteller is pure magic.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I deeply respect the work and dedication that went into it. This is a work that acknowledges the contribution of minds that have borne us further. But the author has labored in an area which has been deprived of both attention and public sympathy. This is true dedication and scholarship.


    Any additional comments?

    This book deserves a broad readership.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keep It Real 04-13-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Nothing short of wonderful!"

    Professor Gearon is eloquent, entertaining, passionate and I dare say a polymath himself. He inspires love for the subject. What a pleasure to have such gifted professors!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Ye Flushing, NY United States 09-13-17
    Nancy Ye Flushing, NY United States 09-13-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Enlighting experience! Amazing vocal paired with passion."

    Highly recommended for anyone with the interest for knowledge, world history and culture. It may be called the 'Islamic Golden Age', its true influence is without border and contemporary.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marc 09-08-17
    Marc 09-08-17

    Father, Son, Husband, Pizza Baker, Software Developer, Author, Musician, Archer, Interested in almost everything, Never Learned it All

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    "Mind you: It's not about "Islamic" Achievements .."
    Any additional comments?

    Mr. Gearon makes it clear that this course is not about "*Islamic* achievements" but about cultural, scientific and artistic - outstanding - accomplishments that fall in the *era* of the Islamic Golden Age (which he, openly somewhat arbitrarily, assigns to the mid 8th century to mid 13th).
    In that regard the course is both interesting and slightly disappointing. Most of the sampled achievements are more or less well known to anyone who some fundamental historic education. Some are described in a somewhat limited / isolated way, though Gearon at times hints at many culturues and peoples being involved.

    It does help to have some (rough) understanding of the history of the Islamic "empire" (excuse the term, please), for that I highly recommend Reza Aslan's "No God but God" (which is way more neutral and objective than the title makes one think), to get an understanding of the who-and-where-and-what that you need to put achievements into their respective historical meaning. Since Mr. Gearon sets the end of the Golden Age in sync with the sacking of Bagdad by "the Mongols", it would also be a good idea to have an idea of who those might have been (Jack Weatherford's Dschinghis Khan / Genghis Khan biography is a good read/listen for that). The later is all the more interesting, because Weatherford puts quite some of the achievements credited to (Islamic) cultures to Mongol controlled or influenced peoples ...

    What I did like and find interesting about this course was that it - again - underlined the openess, tolerance (to some degree, sure) and "modern, progressive way of thinking" that was not too uncommon in the beginnings of the Islamic "era" (if you want to call it that way). Don't get me wrong, I am not claiming that Islam is "the most open, cultural unbiased invention ever". I am just getting reminded that in its early days - and within its historical context! - it was way, way more open, modern, emancipated than what we see today (sadly) in terms of fundalism, inter-religious quarrels and close-mindness thanks to an also growing intolerance and aggression from other religious sides (also, sadly, from the two "sister" Abrahamic religions).
    Even if the course does not talk about "ISLAMIC Golden Times", it does indeed show that there have been "better" times ...

    If I am to give some critics, it would be about the - typical for the "Great Courses" - superficialness of most of the topics. It's really barely scratching surfaces and, again typical for this series, does not give you any hints for further reading/listening.
    Mr. Gearon has a nice voice, easy to follow, with a sympathic "British touch" to it. His intonation (in terms of putting weight on too many words in a sentence) and some irritating pauses sometimes, seldomly, made following his thoughts a bit more difficult than necessary. On the other hand, he added some very welcome British humor to his narration, that more than compensated for whatever irritations I may have felt.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Andrew McC
    Glasgow
    8/20/17
    Overall
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    "Engaging and thought provoking"

    Professor Gearon is very engaging and clearly enthusiastic about the Islamic golden age. The subject itself is interesting and I learned a great deal. It is a pity that the facts of this topic are not more well known. Amy history of the west seems to jump from Roman history to the Renaissance ignoring the important contributions of Islamic art, science and culture - which this course goes some way to rectifying. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Vavavoom
    5/13/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well-presented propaganda"

    In recent years, suspicion of and hostility to Islam has grown continuously in the western world, as Muslim immigration has increased, and jihad attacks have become almost routine. Western elites have made an extraordinary efforts to convince their sceptical publics that Islam is not just the fount of horror many of them believe it to be. Part of this propaganda initiative has involved talking up the glories of the supposed Islamic golden age. Professor Gearon's work falls squarely within that tradition.

    Although Gearon acknowledges that many of the greatest achievers were not Muslims, he insists on using the term "Islamic Golden Age" anyway. His excuse: because it's already in widespread use. He constantly asserts, but fails to convincingly demonstrate, that the European Renaissance somehow derived from or depended on the prior "Islamic Golden Age".

    There are many flaws in this strain of Islamophile propaganda. Notably, it implies that "Greek wisdom" would have been lost to Europe if it had not been preserved through intermediate translation into Arabic. There are a few texts of which this is true but its extent has been massively exaggerated. The propagandists tend to ignore the fact that "Greek wisdom" was preserved in the place where it originated, Greece, under the auspices of the Byzantine empire. By rhetorical sleight of hand, they disconnect the Byzantine empire from Europe and argue that Europe should somehow be pathetically grateful to Muslims for having given us back our own knowledge. An absurdity. They also ignore the fact that there was almost zero transmission of "knowledge" from Islamic civilisation to European civilisation until the Muslim polities in Spain were defeated in the Reconquista. In other words, it wasn't convivencia that brought "enrichment" but warfare.

    Professor Gearon makes the Muslim propagandist's case as well as it can be made, but, for me at least, it remains deficient and unconvincing. It's worth listening to, certainly, but in a spirit of scepticism.

    1 of 9 people found this review helpful

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