Author(s): Jonathan Lyons
For centuries following the fall of Rome, Western Europe was backward and benighted, locked into the Dark Ages and barely able to tell the time of day. Augustine had decreed that belief, not reason, should be the guiding light of Christian thinking and partially as a result Europeans lived in a world of nominal literacy and subsistence farming, where blind faith, superstition and sorcery took the place of medicine, and the church harnessed nascent aggression among the kingdoms to its own ends in the pursuit of astonishingly violent and cruel holy wars - the Crusades. Arab culture, however, was thriving, and had become a powerhouse of intellectual exploration and discussion that dazzled the likes of Adelard of Bath who ventured to the Near East in search of the scientific riches pouring out of cities like Antioch or Baghdad, whose House of Wisdom held four hundred thousand books at a time when the best European libraries housed, at most, several dozen.
'A wonderful and important book which for the first time presents the Western debt to medieval Arabic learning in a clear, accessible manner ... fascinating ' William Dalrymple News about the contemporary Arab world is constantly in our press, creating a demand to know the history of this fascinating place This page-turning narrative history will captivate fans of Longitude by and Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
'A wonderful and important book which for the first time presents the Western debt to medieval Arabic learning in a clear, accessible manner. From the azimuth to the zenith, from algebra to the zero, so much of what the West takes for granted came to us from the Arab world ... A fascinating book' William Dalrymple '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' The Times 'In this clear and well-written book, Jonathan Lyons delves into all sorts of musty corners to show how Arabic science percolated into the Latin world in the middle ages and helped civilise a rude society' Guardian 'Sophisticated and thoughtful ... Lyons's narrative is vivid and elegant' Wall Street Journal
Author and journalist Jonathan Lyons has spent his professional and personal life exploring the shifting boundaries between East and West. After more than 20 years as an editor and foreign correspondent for Reuters, he is now a researcher at the Global Terrorism Research Centre and a PhD candidate in sociology of religion at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He lives in Washington DC. He has a BA with Honours in Russian and History from Wesleyan university and was a Fellow at Columbia University's Harriman Institute of Soviet Studies. He also studied at the Pushkin Institute of Russian language in Moscow.