Overhauling the standard narrative of the Renaissance

Humanists of the Renaissance period […] often criticized scientists for adulterating Classical knowledge with Arabic/Islamic influences. Thus, the standard narrative of the Renaissance paints an erroneous picture that the Islamic interlude was merely a vessel for preserving and then passing out ancient Greeko-Roman science to the Europeans. Instead, there is no such thing as preserved Greek science. It had been thoroughly transformed during the intervening centuries and it was the new science that was of any use, not some preserved version of it. This may be common knowledge, but I think this distinction between humanists and scientists is really interesting.

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2 Responses to “Overhauling the standard narrative of the Renaissance”


  1. 1 Julaybib Ayoub March 26, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    What needs to happen, in my view, is to stop assuming the global historical narrative and the post-Renaissance European historical narrative are equivalent. Globalisation was happening a long time before ‘The West’ jumped on the bandwagon, and the future looks very much ‘the West’ will not remain hegemonic for much longer.

    Historically, see: Hobson, J. M. (2006) ‘The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

  2. 2 Bradley Steffens April 8, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. As I point out in my new book, Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist, Islamic scholars made significant advances in mathematics and developed the scientific method centuries before the Europeans. These advances eventually made their way through Spain and into Europe. They shaped not only the way European scholars looked at science, but set a new standard for truth and knowledge generally. No longer would mere opinions, rhetoric, authorities, or even logic be sufficient to establish the truth regarding any phenomenon. Following in the footsteps of Ibn al-Haytham, who was known in the West as Alhazen or Alhacen, and other Muslim scholars, the Europeans began to expect facts to be backed with tangible, physical proof, arrived at objectively, using the scientific method.


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