Why there were no Islamic Middle Ages

Scholar of Arabic studies Thomas Bauer questions the notion of “medieval Islam”

© C. H. Beck

In his latest publication entitled “Warum es kein islamisches Mittelalter gab” (Why There Were No Islamic Middle Ages), the scholar of Arabic studies Prof. Dr. Thomas Bauer questions historical epochal boundaries and widespread stereotypes about Islamic history. “Islam got stuck in the Middle Ages, missed the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment – this is the common diagnosis. But what if there were no Islamic Middle Ages at all?” The scholar shows by means of numerous examples how antiquity lived on in the Islamic world until the 11th century, thus disproving the well-established epochal boundaries and the image of a “medieval” Islam in need of reform.

“For centuries, the ancient cities of the Orient were alive with baths, mosques and other large stone buildings, while in Europe these were falling into ruin.” Doctors continued the medicine of the Roman physician Galen (130–210 AD), and the natural sciences and love poetry were flourishing. “Copper coins, glass, roof tiles, paper: there were many ancient achievements in the everyday life of the Orient that Central Europeans (re-)discovered only at the beginning of the modern era.” The Leibniz and Tractatus laureate Thomas Bauer describes in his study how the ancient culture of al-Andalus survived in an area spanning Spain, North Africa, Syria and Persia and why the 11th century formed a turning point throughout Eurasia – from the Hindu Kush to Western Europe – which was, before long, followed by modern times in the Islamic world. (sca)

Reference: Thomas Bauer: Warum es kein islamisches Mittelalter gab. Das Erbe der Antike und der Orient, München: C. H. Beck, ISBN 978-3-406-72730-6, 175 pages, 22.95 euros.