The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization Hardcover – 2 Feb 2009
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'Lyons gives us a new and important understanding of our historical and cultural relation to Islam and the Arab world ... this is a well-crafted, powerful account which akss us to re-examine our assumptions about East and West, a task never so neccessary as now' -- The Scotsman
'Lyons vividly conveys the excitement young European Scholars travelling east must have felt as they glimpsed a dazzling new world of learning'
-- New Scientist
'The House Of Wisdom lays out for us the fascinating decades before the forgetting began' -- Evening Standard
`Jonathan Lyons tells the story of the House of Wisdom, the caliphs who supported it and the people who worked there, at a riveting, breakneck pace' -- Ziauddin Sardar, The Times
`Lyons tells many of these stories well; this is a work of popular history, not of original research, but he has read widely in the English-language literature, and has a good journalist's eye for detail.' -- Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph
`Jonathan Lyons tells the story of the House of Wisdom, the caliphs who supported it and the people who worked there, at a riveting, breakneck pace'See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
When the First Crusade (about which we are given many unnecessary political details) began in 1096, the people of the West were rightly looked upon by the Arabs as coarse, brutish, and dirty; so ignorant that they could not even tell the time with any exactitude; their notion of justice involving trial by ordeal; their `medical' procedures which killed rather than cured; a clumsy numerical system they had inherited from the Romans; and with only scraps of knowledge of the achievements of antiquity having survived the barbarian invasions. In Europe, there was indeed some scholarship - we speak of a Carolingian and of an Ottonian Renaissance - but most learning was theological, and the official line of the Church was that any pragmatic attempt to understand the material world was suspect as being at best a distraction from seeking salvation and at worst a danger to it.
But there was also, among the violence, more peaceful interaction between the western invaders and the Arabs (and between the Arab invaders of Spain and the Christians there). Lyons describes how Arab scholarship of every kind had been promoted by the early Abbasid caliphs from the middle of the 8th to the first half of the 9th century (i.e. well before the First Crusade of 1096): by al-Mansur, Harun al-Rashid, and especially by al-Mamun, who had established the House of Wisdom as a great centre of learning and translations from Greek, Persian and Indian manuscripts.Read more ›
He tells us the West had no great scientist, but gives ample examples of the opposite. He takes many of his sources at face value. The speech of Uban II, for example, is not viewed as a rethorical speech of war, but as an actual account of Medieval life.
Moreover his account is largely about the rather obscure Adelard of Bath, a rather obscure monk whose influence is debatable. Historians doubt wether Adelard actually mastered Arabic. Lyons does not even mention this debate but assumes Adelard could read Arabic.
Most major books on the subject are not listed in the bibliography or the endnotes (how could he miss Hugh Kennedy's major book on the Arab conquest?). Much of his discourse on the Western European Dark Ages is based on works that are over 50 years old! He doesn't use any books that challenge his thoughts.
There are so many factual errors that it's impossible to name all of them. Just a few then.
On page 49 he qoutes from the Ecclesiastical history of the English people by Bede. The qoute relates, according to Lyons, to the battle of Poitiers, as Lyons calls it, but is known as the battle of Tours nowadays (as Lyons doesn't use any books on Western European history that postdate 1974 it's not suprising he has missed this name change). If so Bede must have been able to foresee the future. The battle took place in 732 (according to Lyons pre-1974 literature, 733 or 734 according to modern scholars), the book was written in 731.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
great introduction for those interested in early history of the rise of the middle east.Published 11 months ago by william mcgillion
It is good for those to know many things about the Islamic wisdomPublished 19 months ago by sahib mohammad bakir
I can not really comment on is book as the text was so small I gave up. What a shamePublished on 12 April 2014 by Mark Le Sueur
This is an excellent book. It gives a comprehensive historical background and has been used for research.
It arrived on time and well packed
An excellent overview of Arab science and history. It makes you want to find out more and do further reading.Published on 9 Mar. 2013 by R. Hotchkis
A useful book that reminds people of an era when the western mind set was closed the Arab was open.Published on 29 Sept. 2011 by Amazon Customer
The Arabs civilized Europe? Thank you very much. But, how come they didn't civilize themselves?
Take a walk through a middle eastern city of your choice and realize how our... Read more
Great book. Succinctly written. A joy to read. Strongly recommend it if you want to learn more about this.Published on 26 Aug. 2010 by Chris
This is the book i recommend for everyone to read. The clash of great civilizations and how Islam dealt with christian europe. Read morePublished on 24 May 2009 by Kaiser
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