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The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age

Learn about the many scientific and cultural achievements of one of the most important periods in all of world history, led by an acclaimed lecturer.
The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 89.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating scientific discoveries Very interesting to know where discoveries credited to 15th century Europeans actually came from --and hundreds of years earlier. What strikes me too is that when the leader of the society dedicated most resources to education and scientific discovery instead of war and popular ignorance, it created a seemingly desirable place to live. I want to learn more about Islamic civilizations.
Date published: 2022-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture series.Eamonn conveys the information clearly and concisely. He is never boring. He injects small bits of humor when appropriate. He is so knowledgable about the subject matter also.
Date published: 2022-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Well Balanced Course Like many other reviewers, I learned an extraordinary amount about this important period in human history, especially just how important the Islamic golden Age has been to the development of other cultures such as those of Western Europe in the Renaissance and later. That was and is valuable to know, but what I particularly appreciate about Professor Gearon is the way he achieves a perfect balance in his presentation of the strengths and weaknesses of both the early Islamic world and the Christian world which paralleled, then followed it. It is done with great subtlety, but his presentation and his illustrations are so clear it is impossible to miss the parallels, whether complementary to the faith communities in question or not. You can’t miss his point, but neither could even the most ardent adherent to one faith or the other find his presentation offensive. Professor Gearon’s final lecture is equally insightful and equally subtle as he discusses what it is that makes a “golden age” truly golden. I paraphrase here, but his answer is that a spirit of free enquiry and a welcoming of talent from all sources regardless of faith or ethnicity or any of the other things which so often divide us is the underlying precondition for any age to become golden. With that spirit and that welcome, there is no end to the prospects for humanity. Without them – if we become dogmatic in our thinking and inhospitable to talented others – a golden age can and likely will turn to dross. It is a timely lesson, delivered with great skill by Professor Gearon.
Date published: 2022-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title did a good job of explaining what the course The lecturer was very knowledgeable about all aspects of the course
Date published: 2022-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant! Love this course! The professor was excellent. It was a lot of fun, and very informative. It is important to note, this is not a course on the Islamic religion, but a history of the influence they had on a great deal of our current knowledge. On a side note, I appreciated the set he was on, far superior to that wall with the window of the brick wall! (lol!)
Date published: 2021-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like this course very much, one puzzle - This is an excellent course on a subject of global importance. I knew that medieval Islamic civilization was advanced, but had no idea that it was centuries ahead of my European ancestors in science - medicine, automata - not just clocks but actual automata - , mathematics, philosophy. The course briefly covers why this wonderful science somehow fell behind the Europeans. Muslims were not just a little ahead, they were way far ahead. Both civilizations encountered the Black Plague, constant warfare, collapsing empires, religions divisions, authoritarian rulers. What happened? More time could have been spent on this puzzle.
Date published: 2021-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting and educational Very informative snd interesting amid today’s World situation. Stimulates thought and conversation. I enjoy watching with a friend.
Date published: 2021-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This is a fine course. Professor Gearon adroitly weaves the cultural, intellectual, and technological accomplishments of the Islamic Golden Age with interesting stories of the principal individuals who brought about those accomplishments. And he demonstrates how their work served as a necessary bridge between achievements of classical Greece and the “rediscovery” of those achievements in Western Europe prior to and during the Renaissance. I believe that this course would be intellectually enriching for anyone. A welcome aspect of this course is that Professor Gearon recognizes that the significant achievements in Islamic lands during the long history of the Islamic Golden Age were achieved by persons of various faiths and ethnic origins. Indeed, his lecture on Moses Maimonides, the great Jewish rabbi and philosopher, is especially good. Please note, however, that in this course Professor Gearon takes a rather unconventional approach to teaching History. He does not begin by providing a foundational description of the beginnings of Islam, of the Shia-Sunni split, or of the revolutionary overthrow of the original Umayyad caliphate by the Abbasids. He mentions these things in almost casual passing. He basically jumps right into the Abbasid caliphate and its “Golden Age.” The Professor also does not use a conventional chronological approach in his presentation. Instead he presents things in a thematic fashion. Lack of foundation and lack of chronology might put off those who prefer a more orthodox presentation of a History course. One consequence of using a thematic, non-chronological approach is that each lecture stands on its own, largely disassociated from the other lectures. This results in some repetition. Much (but not all) of lecture 12, for instance, addresses material contained within other lectures. And although we meet certain prominent individuals in multiple lectures, in each case it is as if we were meeting them for the first time. There are also a couple of potential quibbles, such as the absence of a key letter in an algebraic equation and frequent reiteration of the dates of the Islamic Golden Age. But these are trivial in comparison to the highly competent presentation of a very interesting subject.
Date published: 2021-11-12
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It is nearly impossible to overstate the power and importance of the crucial 500-year history of the Abbasid Empire. 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.


Eamonn Gearon

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


Johns Hopkins University

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.

By This Professor

The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age
Turning Points in Middle Eastern History
The Middle East in the 20th Century
The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age


From Camels to Stars in the Middle East

01: 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

02: 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

03: 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

04: 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

05: 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

06: 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

07: 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

08: 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

09: 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