The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprising Historical Information... "A man who is noble does not pretend to be noble, any more than an eloquent man feigns eloquence. When a man exaggerates his qualities it is because of something lacking in him, the bully gives himself airs because he is conscious of his weakness. Pride is ugly in all men... it is worse than cruelty, which is the worst in kind of sins, and humility is better than clemency, which is the best of all good deeds." ~ Al-Jahiz (called Boggle-eyed - Bulging eyes) - suggested reading... "The Book of Misers" by: Al-Jahiz ~~~ "As my late father used to say... The one thing to remember about common sense is that it is not very common." ~ Professor Eamonn Gearon ~~~ "The seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency." ~Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040 c.e. - Father of Scientific Inquiry) ~~~ Although it was considered radical at the time Al-Biruni thought all religions - even those that were polytheistic and not related to the Abrahamic beliefs, as Hinduism, etc. - that there was a common core belief system - and that all religions as such should be tolerated. He was a Muslim and believed that his intellect was a gift from God. He was considered a genius by some people. ~~ He once said... "I was driven into worldly affairs and became the envy of fools, and pitied by the wise." ~~~ One day, Al-Biruni was showing a religious scholar an astronomical instrument that was said to identify the correct direction for prayer, i.e., towards Mecca. A legalist, the visiting scholar always adhered to the letter of religious law rather than the spirit. As such this legalist objected that it had engraved upon it the names of the months in the Byzantine calendar, which he said, amounted to imitating infidel practices. Furious, Al-Biruni retorted, "The Byzantines also eat food, so you'd best not imitate them in that," and he threw the man into the street. ~~~ "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death." ~ Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) ~~~ "When I have a difficult subject before me -when I find the road narrow, and can see no other way of teaching a well-established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools - I prefer to address myself to the one man, and to take no notice whatever of the condemnation of the multitude." ~ Moses Maimonides ~~~ (This entire lecture series is a real gift to anyone who gives their entire attention to the information shared. Some of the best quotes I have ever heard in my entire life are by Maimonides and contained here in this review - things priceless and valuable to learn, understand and be applied wherever the need in life may be.) ~~~ "Do not consider it proof just because it is written in books, for a liar who will deceive with his tongue will not hesitate to do the same with his pen." ~Maimonides ~~~ "Like many great thinkers, Maimonides was keen to encourage others to think for themselves and to be on their guard against being mislead, as in by the... "blind belief"." ~ Professor Eamonn Gearon ~~~ "The Arabians were lovers of poetry in all its forms - love, war, history, tales, praise, insult and laments. The purpose of insult poems was to ridicule or lampoon rival tribes and their leaders. And they would generate a response from that tribe's poet, offering fresh insults in response. These were insults that the original tribe would then be forced to respond to, and so on. known in English as "flyting"; this practice of trading insults via poetry isn't limited to the Arab world. Examples of similar, formalized public battle in verse appear in locations as diverse as ancient Greece, Japan, among the Arctic-dwelling Inuit peoples, as well as in Norse, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon societies." ~~~ (This is but a small sampling and may seem long to some, but, it was so hard to choose what to share - this entire course is an absolute educational delight and treasure of information about historical people and things I was never before aware - and I will enjoy it again and again.)
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course changed my travel plans I really enjoyed this course. Presentation was clear, with lots of information and a touch of dry humour. Because it covered so much Mr Gearon couldn't go into a lot of depth on each topic but it whetted my appetite to learn more about Islamic contributions. A minor criticism is that on at least one occasion he said he would cover three points in the rest of the lecture but then covered only two of them. He mentioned the importance of Córdoba so often that I decided to visit the city and in fact am writing this review from there. I am spending a month here learning about the history of Córdoba and the surrounding area. It's a delight. Thank you Mr Gearon.
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting topic- presentation so-so The lectures cover the Golden Age of Islam and the artistic, scientific and cultural achievements. In order to over come modern day biases against Islam, the lecturer kind of bends over backwards to show case the achievements and stretches the truth a bit (first, best, etc). On balance, the information was good and worthwhile to learn.
Date published: 2020-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating look at 'Islamic' culture I learned a lot from this course; it doesn't move chronologically but focus' on different subjects and follows the cultural changes across time and space.
Date published: 2019-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An accurate title. This is a wonderful overview of cultural developments across a vast territory from 750 to 1258. Each chapter focusses on a particular aspect of life or a historical character. While it could not hope to provide an in-depth understanding of such a huge topic, it is a good introduction that may lead me to further explorations.
Date published: 2019-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Western culture's missing link. We in the west owe so much to the great Islamic thinkers. Everything from the practice of washing your hands before eating, brushing your teeth after, distillation of spirits, alchemy, medicine, astronomy and gastronomy. Thanks to Professor Gearon for a wonderful journey. It was over too soon.
Date published: 2019-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting insight into this period. At first, I was a little hesitant about this course. However, after completing it I found it extremely worth while. The instructor does an excellent job of describing this era. Mr. Gearon has a special gift of presentation. I did learn a lot from this course.
Date published: 2019-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Islamic golden age Well presented ,and illustrated with surprising information about the history and contribution of this period.
Date published: 2019-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! Great historical information - and so needed in today's world.
Date published: 2019-07-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fascinating content but poor delivery Very disappointed.Fascinating information, but the delivery was so stilted and halting that it was hard for me to maintain interest in the audio version through any of the 30-minute lectures. It sounded like he was reading a wordy script. I have listened to at least 20 courses from the Teaching Company, and I will not purchase another course from this lecturer.
Date published: 2019-05-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I asked whether I could listen to this as audio in my car. They said yes. It is not true
Date published: 2019-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Eamonn Gearon again introduces another culture to us—with excellent organization and delivery. We in the West have, too long, been inadequately aware of the achievements of other civilizations. This series makes one appreciate the high-minded intellectuals and scientists of former Islamic empires. Well delivered with contagious enthusiasm.
Date published: 2019-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation, interesting course I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the professor on walks and watching him on Great Courses Plus. Maybe it is the English accent. He has a wonderful manner of speaking, making even difficult or dry material interesting. I am going to get his other course. As with other courses, some lectures are better in video, especially if there are maps. But the audio is OK for this course.
Date published: 2019-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye-opening I had, of course, heard of the so-called "Islamic Golden Age," but didn't know much about it. To be honest, having received what was a typical Euro-centric education decades ago, during which I heard little or anything about Islamic history, I was a bit skeptical. But when I saw this course on sale, and that it got such great reviews, my curiosity was piqued. The reviews are right: this is a fantastic course. I had a moment of doubt at the start of the course when I saw that Professor Gearon does not have a PhD, as do most of the instructors of Teaching Company courses, but he turned out to be one of the most engaging of all the instructors I've watched or listened to in my many years of enjoying Teaching Company courses. There is no question that he is deeply knowledgeable about the subject. He is an excellent teacher, presenting material in a very natural way that brings to life the subjects about which he's speaking, making them more memorable. Professor Gearon gently uses repetition to impress upon learners the most important facts -- I noticed, for instance, that he was able to unobtrusively incorporate the traditional start and end dates of the Islamic Golden Age into each lecture. His personal observations, often informed by his own extensive experiences in the areas of the world he's discussing as well as by other historians of the period, are trenchant and thought-provoking. Professor Gearon makes frequent use of well-chosen primary source quotes (in translation) further add to our understanding of the period. I can't recommend this course highly enough. The very next thing I'm going to do is check out Professor Gearon's other Great Courses. Note that I took this as a video course. I found the visuals -- especially the maps and the images of the art of the period -- very helpful. I'm not sure how it would work as an audio-only course.
Date published: 2019-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Gearon does it again This course is a great companion to "Turning Points in Middle Eastern History" It takes us through a part of history that many of us in the USA (and Europe) know, at best, only peripherally. The Golden Age covered roughly from the founding of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, around 750 C.E. to 1258, at the sack of Baghdad by the Mongol army of Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan. The course essentially revolves around the Abbasid Caliph al-Amun, who founded in Baghdad "The House of Wisdom". Scholars there became involved in translation of works from Persia, Greece, India, China, et al. The works had been bought, borrowed, or probably in some cases appropriated, and then translated into Arabic, the language of the Quran (originally passed down orally, then written down). The scholars had been sought throughout the world, from not just Islamic culture, but Jewish, Christian, Zorastrian, and other, scholars also. Not only were the texts translated, but became the bases for much of the original thought and continued increase in human knowledge, especially in science and mathematics. Why is this important? Many of the texts, in original language, were lost over the years; but the Islamic texts became widespread, and became known to European scholars (including at least one scholarly Pope). Most of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Aristophanes, for example, were available to European scholars to translate later into Latin, and became part of the Italian Renaissance. I heartily recommend this course, along with "Turning Points in Middle Eastern History, by the same lecturer. I also suggest a course which dovetails with these, "Barbarian Empires of the Steppes" for further enrichment.
Date published: 2019-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Islamic Golden Age This course is easy to follow and interesting. Professor is one of the best I've watched.
Date published: 2019-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Islamic History! I brought this video over a week ago and I really enjoy it. It has enlightened me on the Islamic Golden Age and gives me a truly unique perspective on the fathers of Islam great achievements. The guidebook that comes with it is wonderful. I can easily follow the narrator and the pictures help me to get a better understand of the events.
Date published: 2018-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wealth of knowledge. Content heavy. Just what I like. Well worth the time spent listening to the course.
Date published: 2018-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Scholars of Many Backgrounds Welcomed Eamonn Gearon deserves credit and commendation for his insightful analysis of the Islamic Golden Age that thrived in a broad expanse of territory from India across the Middle East and North Africa as far as Spain. Mr. Gearon presents his material evenhandedly as “a mixed bag, enlightened but flawed,” and I feel sure that his Great Course can demystify a portion of world history too often ignored, can correct some present-day biases, and can even build religious and ethnic tolerance. It is an important and timely course, as well as a fascinating one. Mr. Gearon’s credibility as a lecturer is enhanced by his personal experience as a solo traveller in the Sahara and by his impressive research in matters both military and religious. He appears to know the geography, the history, and the socio-political issues of the lands he discusses all equally well. Additional strengths of the course include: *the lecturer’s gentle wit and helpful analogies; *engaging biographical sketches of many talented and colourful individuals from the years under discussion (750–1258 AD); *comparisons drawn to what was going on contemporaneously in other parts of the world; *a tracing of how later developments like the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Gothic Revival in architecture, and even modern astronomy and mathematics all had some of their roots in the Islamic Golden Age; *a wealth of beautiful visual accompaniments to the lectures; *attention paid to well-funded centres of learning established at Cordoba, Cairo, and Samarkand—besides the more famous House of Wisdom at Baghdad; *and, perhaps most edifying to me, well-supported evidence of the respect shown to scholars, inventors, artists, translators, poets, and other writers representing a great variety of backgrounds, and shown as well to the wisdom of prior cultures, such as those of Greece and Rome. The strengths of the course outweigh a few minor weaknesses. If Mr. Gearon ever revises the course, I would urge him to be not quite so repetitive. I do not know if there was ever any intent to make each lecture useable in a stand-alone way, but I wonder if that might be the motivation for reporting some of the same chronological information and individuals' introductions over and over again in successive lectures. In a “rewindable” course which also comes with a guidebook, this is hardly necessary. I have mixed feelings, too, about some of the speaker’s digressive anecdotes, which are not uninteresting but which occasionally sap a lecture’s momentum. A few of the admittedly lovely visual accompaniments should have captions or clearer specification of just what is depicted on-screen. One that especially puzzles me is of astronomers apparently using telescopes, though telescopes were invented well after the era under discussion. Simple sighting tubes would have been era-appropriate, but when I located the very same illustration on the Internet, I found it identified there as dating from the later “age of telescopes.” “The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age” is a course I look forward to viewing and studying more than once. I recommend it very enthusiastically!
Date published: 2018-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating History great history, and very interesting presentation. The instructor kept the course interesting with great details.
Date published: 2018-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Discover the wonders of the Medieval Middle East This was an insightful course. I had first studied Islam in middle school and it awakened in me an interest in learning more about this misunderstood faith. ‘Golden Age’ looks at some of the accomplishments that came about because of Islam’s transformation of the Middle East. Professor Gearon was informative and effective at conveying the course content. He looked at not just the intellectual achievements of Islam, but also the artistic and scientific as well. He made me want to read some of the works of Averroes and Moses Maimonides and I think that is the mark of a good teacher; wanting you to learn more. If you want to learn more about the culture that Islam produced in the centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, this course will show you.
Date published: 2018-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative and full of bio info! This course contains information in an excellent format and gives the viewer/listener information that is not readily available in such a compact form that the professor ties together very well. I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Information Regarding Islamic History. I do work for a Muslim, and best friends with a Muslim, and live across the street from a Mosque. The Administrator of said Mosque is also a good friend. All that being said, as a Roman Catholic and also novice student of Islamic History I found this series both of interest and very educational.
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from So So We tried this as we found that Prof Gearon's five star 36 lecture course on 'Turning Points in Middle Eastern History' rationally and charmingly worked through an important aspect of world history - about which we were taught essentially nothing other than random jingoistic nonsense in our long ago schooldays in England and Ireland - and about which it is hard to find an impartial account these days. Unfortunately this 24 lecture course did little more than make us regret the impossibility of presenting topics such as: i] the extraordinary attempts made in the Islamic Golden Age to translate the works of the rest of the ancient world, ii] Avicenna, iii] Maimonides, iv] Islamic advances in math or astronomy - in 30 minutes - not to mention the difficulty presenting math based material meaningfully to the non-mathematician. This course represents a good try that only works part of the time - and which needs many more illustrations - and expanded sections on many topics such as medicine and architecture.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent and Insightful Course I purchased this course prior to a trip to Spain; I particularly wanted to benefit from the insights of the professor prior to visiting the cities of Sevilla and Granada and the Hill country farther inland. It enriched my appreciation of my time there, and my understanding and appreciation of Islamic culture. The professor is engaging and knowledgeable-I looked forward to each lecture, reluctantly waiting when other duties demanded my attention.
Date published: 2018-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Insights! This is the second course I purchased and it did nothing to disappoint. Mr. Gearon was a talented and effective presenter. He offered ideas that intrigued me and increased my knowledge. The topics were varied and worth thinking about, often long after the lecture. He made ideas about the Islamic Age come to life consistently. It's a very good course.
Date published: 2018-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Personable lecturer, well packaged content Professor Eamonn is a superb lecturer. His amiable style made the course thoroughly enjoyable, not to mention the excellent organisation of content. The depth and breadth of his coverage on the period is impressive. A course to be savoured.
Date published: 2018-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Overview; Wished for Longer Course! This is a very well done, fascinating overview of the brilliant epoch of the Muslim world covering (approximately) the years 750 - 1250. In addition to historical essentials, our professor discusses theological, philosophical, literary, mathematical, scientific, and cultural highlights, as well as (very) brief biographies of major thinkers and political figures. An essential theme of the course is the tolerance of the Muslim rulers for other religions, and the diversity of religious and cultural backgrounds of the great figures of this time and place. Note that this is the story of a remarkably diverse culture, not a history of one religion or people. Also, it is told from a strictly secular, non-religious perspective. Professor Gearon is outstanding - knowledgeable and very well organized, with a well-modulated speaking voice and style which holds your attention. There are many helpful illustrations and maps, although the course could certainly be appreciated in audio format. My one complaint, and wish, is that the course should have been far longer and more detailed. I hope TGC will ask Professor Gearon to return with a much fuller history of the same era. The course has my highest recommendation for anyone with an interest in this area, or in the history of human culture and achievements in general.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned so much! I really enjoyed learning about this part of the world and its history. . At first I had trouble with the names, so I just listened to every lecture two or three times. (I listen while I drive). Islamic advances in medicine and mathematics need to be realized by more people.
Date published: 2017-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Apt name for an unknown age of Islamic history I am a long standing customer of yours and value your service very much. This course met the expectations I have anticipated.
Date published: 2017-11-06
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The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age
Course Trailer
From Camels to Stars in the Middle East
1: From Camels to Stars in the Middle East

Step back to one of the most important yet overlooked periods in human history. Your tour of the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization begins with the who, what, why, where, when, and how of this great period and its impact. Explore the Abbasid Empire and see how it bridged the ancient world and the Renaissance....

32 min
Ibn Battuta's Search for Knowledge
2: Ibn Battuta's Search for Knowledge

As a truly international, intercultural, interracial, and even intercontinental era, great travelers abound. Here, you will meet the Moroccan wayfarer Ibn Battuta and trace his journey across Northern Africa and the Middle East in the century after the Mongol sack of Baghdad. Gain new insights into the era-including whether it ever truly come to an end....

30 min
Arabian Nights Caliph: Harun al-Rashid
3: Arabian Nights Caliph: Harun al-Rashid

Get to know the great Caliph Harun al-Rashid and Baghdad's House of Wisdom, which was the largest depository of books in the world at that time-and served as the engine that drove much of the Golden Age. Then shift your attention to the Arabian Nights collection of stories and legends to discover the source of al-Rashid's enduring fame....

32 min
The Arab World's Greatest Writer: al-Jahiz
4: The Arab World's Greatest Writer: al-Jahiz

Considered by many scholars to be the finest writer of Arabic prose who ever lived, al-Jahiz was a brilliant stylist and author of more than 200 works, many of which survive today. In this lecture, you will uncover the origins of Arabic writing before turning to the life and works of al-Jahiz....

30 min
Algebra, Algorithms, and al-Khwarizmi
5: Algebra, Algorithms, and al-Khwarizmi

The field of mathematics owes a tremendous debt to the Islamic Golden Age. Mathematicians such as Omar Khayyam (who is perhaps better known today as a poet) and al-Khwarizmi built on the work of Babylonian, Greek, and Indian mathematicians to systematize and explain algebra and symbolic algorithms. Survey this critical period of mathematics history....

31 min
Baghdad's House of Wisdom
6: Baghdad's House of Wisdom

During the Abbasid Empire, Baghdad's House of Wisdom was the world's preeminent center for translation and original research. Find out why translation flourished in this era, and meet two of the Golden Age's most important translators: Hunayan Ibn Ishaq and al-Kindi. Then consider the intellectual legacy of the Arabic translation movement....

29 min
Muhammad, the Hadith, and Imam Bukhari
7: Muhammad, the Hadith, and Imam Bukhari

"Hadith" refers to the collected sayings of Muhammad outside of the Quran, all of which were gathered and sifted in an amazing feat of research by Iman al-Bukhari 200 years after Muhammad's death. Journey with al-Bukhari as he wrestles with the authenticity of hundreds of thousands of hadith-and how his work continues to impact Islam today....

29 min
Interpreting and Defending the Quran
8: Interpreting and Defending the Quran

Delve into the realm of Quranic exegesis from the year 750 until about 1258. By considering the life of al-Tabari, one of the most important commentators in Islamic history, you will uncover the method and implications of tafsir, or exegesis. Your study will take you into controversial territory with a look at the infamous Satanic Verses....

32 min
The Arab Herodotus: al-Masudi
9: The Arab Herodotus: al-Masudi

Examine the life and times of one of the era's great travel writers. Following the journey of al-Masudi gives you a broad tour of the Islamic Golden Age and its history. After reviewing his biography and reflecting on his reasons for traveling, you will survey the many subjects he wrote about, from geography and geology to the strategy of backgammon....

27 min
Cairo, al-Haytham, and the Book of Optics
10: Cairo, al-Haytham, and the Book of Optics

Al-Haytham's seven-volume Book of Optics is one of the most fascinating works of scientific enquiry in the Golden Age. After reviewing the wider context of Cairo in the 10th century, delve into al-Haytham's experimentation with optics and the eye. Find out why many modern scholars have called him the world's first true scientist....

30 min
Master Muslim Scholar: al-Biruni
11: Master Muslim Scholar: al-Biruni

This lecture introduces you to al-Biruni, a scholar and polymath who left a mark on physics, math, astronomy, geography, anthropology, history, and much more. Born in modern-day Uzbekistan, his pursuit of learning and dissemination of knowledge is unparalleled. See what made his scholastic approach and his research methodology so groundbreaking....

31 min
Astronomy in the Islamic Golden Age
12: Astronomy in the Islamic Golden Age

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Islamic Golden Age on the field of astronomy, as evidenced today by the number of stars with Arabic names. Focusing on the work of three Islamic astronomers, you'll explore the difference between astronomy and astrology, and unpack the many scientific advancements of the era....

30 min
Medieval Muslim Medicine and Hospitals
13: Medieval Muslim Medicine and Hospitals

Continue your study of the Golden Age's many scientific achievements with a look at the development of medicine and the rise of what today we would call the teaching hospital. Along the way, you will encounter one of the greatest medical minds of all time, Ibn Sina (better known in the West as Avicenna)....

30 min
Alchemistry and Chemistry in Early Baghdad
14: Alchemistry and Chemistry in Early Baghdad

The word "scientist" wasn't invented until the 19th century, but we would nonetheless apply the word to the many scientific thinkers of the Golden Age. Here, you'll witness the process of experimentation that was the start of the scientific method, and you'll see how scientists of the time advanced the field of chemistry....

30 min
The Fertile Crescent, Water, and al-Jazari
15: The Fertile Crescent, Water, and al-Jazari

The Middle East's river systems and irrigation methods were vital for the Abbasid Empire to thrive. After learning about the geography and agricultural techniques of the Golden Age, you'll turn your attention to the link between agriculture and politics-and round out your study of water with a look at some beautiful gardens....

29 min
Jewish Scholar in Cairo: Moses Maimonides
16: Jewish Scholar in Cairo: Moses Maimonides

The 12th century Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides offers great insight into the relationship among the three Abrahamic religions-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Delve into the politics of Cordoba in Andalusia, Spain, during the Golden Age, and then consider Maimonides' scholarship-including his philosophy about the relationship between faith and reason....

31 min
The Banu Musa's Inventions and Automatons
17: The Banu Musa's Inventions and Automatons

From water fountains to self-playing musical instruments, the Golden Age saw an astounding amount of ingenuity. Take a look at a few of the era's most interesting and delightful inventions and automations, and then examine the life and work of al-Jazari, who today is considered the "father of robotics."...

30 min
Mosques, Architecture, and Gothic Revival
18: Mosques, Architecture, and Gothic Revival

The development of architecture is a gradual process of shifting styles from one generation to the next, and the 500 years of the Islamic Golden Age gave the world striking advancements in both religious and military architecture. Here, tour the architecture of great mosques and arches, and see how the era influenced the later European Gothic Revival....

32 min
Arabic Verse, Love Poetry, and Wine Songs
19: Arabic Verse, Love Poetry, and Wine Songs

Examine the lives and work of three powerful poets: Abu Nuwas, Abu Tammam, and al-Mutanabbi. Reflect on the role of poetry in the Golden Age, including forms and subject matter, and examine the relationship between poetry and the multicultural world of the Abbasid Empire....

30 min
Medieval Mastermind: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
20: Medieval Mastermind: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

Ibn Sina-or Avicenna-is arguably the most important philosopher in Islamic history, as well as one of the most influential thinkers of all time. Find out what makes him such an important figure in the history of philosophy, and how he built on the tradition of Aristotle. Then shift your attention to his arguments in the realms of ontology and cosmology....

31 min
Entertaining in the Time of the Abbasids
21: Entertaining in the Time of the Abbasids

Shift your attention from the great minds of the Golden Age and find out how people of the time relaxed. As you learn about the era's food and music cultures, you'll uncover quite a few surprises-such as the origins of the traditional three-course meal. You'll also discover that celebrity cookbooks promoting the latest dietary fad are not a modern invention....

30 min
Calligraphy, Carpets, and the Arabic Arts
22: Calligraphy, Carpets, and the Arabic Arts

We're all familiar with the geometric designs of the mythical flying carpets, but there is an astounding array of Islamic art from the period. Here is your chance to revel in the fine arts of the Islamic Golden Age, which in addition to geometric patterns, included stunning calligraphy, plant or vegetal designs, and figurative representations....

32 min
When Did the Islamic Golden Age End?
23: When Did the Islamic Golden Age End?

Scholars conveniently cite the Mongolian sack of Baghdad in 1258 as the end of the Golden Age, but as you have seen in this course, the truth is more complex. Consider several reasons why the era came to an end-including outside invaders, shifting finances, changes in faith, and plain old human folly....

31 min
Ibn Khaldun on the Rise and Fall of Empire
24: Ibn Khaldun on the Rise and Fall of Empire

Conclude your survey of the Islamic Golden Age with a big-picture look at what followed, including the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the Black Death, and the emergence of gunpowder. While golden ages must inevitably subside, this final lecture gives you the opportunity to reflect on one of the most stunning eras in all of human history....

34 min
Eamonn Gearon

Change is our constant, and the past does indeed inform the present.


University of London


Johns Hopkins University

About Eamonn Gearon

Eamonn Gearon is a Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington DC. He received his M.A. in Near and Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and has also taught at the American University in Cairo.

Mr. Gearon is the cofounder and managing director of The Siwa Group, a specialist consultancy firm, where he trains U.S. Department of State officials, Department of Defense workers, and other U.S. government employees whose work takes them to, or is concerned with, North Africa and the Middle East.

Mr. Gearon spent years living in, traveling, and exploring the Sahara. These days, he enjoys his role as a public speaker, whose presentations combine elements of Middle Eastern history and contemporary affairs. He is a distinguished speaker on Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2 and other vessels.

Mr. Gearon has published extensively on Middle Eastern history, culture, and contemporary politics. A regular reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement and other prestigious publications, he is also the author of The Sahara: A Cultural History. He has contributed to numerous other titles, including the Encyclopedia of African History (edited by Kevin Shillington), Meetings with Remarkable Muslims: A Collection of Travel Writing (edited by Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring), and Sahara Overland: A Route and Planning Guide.

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