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Berbers, Moors, and Education

Poster: David KUIJT <kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu>

On Thu, 10 Dec 1998, Donald Wagner wrote:

> Dafydd is always full of information!

Ha! That's one thing I'm full of, anyway...

> The cool thing about the Muslim wave, which definitely did more good
> than the mongolian tide(sorry, Magnus) for the world, was education. 

[religious connection of education and Islam deleted for brevity]

> This tenet caused education to filter into lower Iberia faster than the
> regions around it.  This was a good thing for them, as Iberia became
> rich, fertile, cultured, and the Muslim arts flourished.  When the
> Muslims were pushed back to Granada, their influence remained and now
> the culture of alandalus is renowed even today.

The civilization and knowledge of Islam, filtering to Western Europe
through Moorish Spain (al-Andalus) also has a direct connection to the
creation of the Renaissance in Europe. 

The total number of books available to Western European scholars after the
Dark Ages was amazingly small -- something in the low three digits TOTAL
different books (ignoring copies of the same book) is one estimate I
vaguely remember (Heather?  Do you have a better estimate?). 

The Christian Spanish conquest of the central part of the Iberian
peninsula in the 13th century opened up the tap on a pipeline of books. 
King Alphonso X of Aragon (c. 1275?) was named "El Sabio" (the Wise) 
because of his support for the translation of a huge number of books from
Arabic (or Hebrew) into Latin.

In the 14th and 15th century, a large number of the "new" books available,
in the universities of Europe had been translated from Arabic.  These
books were on topics as varied as medicine, optics, mathematics, and
natural philosophy.  The invention of the "0", the numeral system we use
today, and Algebra itself (plus, of course, the name "algebra", which is a
bastardization of an Arabic word) all came to Europe through Moorish

So much had been lost in the Dark Ages, and this flow of books through the
Islamic world was so important, that many of the works of the Classical
World (Aristotle, Plato, etc.) were only "rediscovered" in Italy and
France as Latin translations of Arabic texts, which were themselves
translations of older Greek texts.

Incidently, the tolerance of the Arabic world for other religions also
allowed significant freedom for Jews in this period.  Many of the scholars
of Alphonso X were Jewish; a significant number of the translated works of
knowledge Alphonso oversaw were translated from Hebrew.  This tolerance
died with the Reconquest of Spain. 


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