The Light Ages

Ref: C3741113

This course explores how scientific knowledge was transferred from Ancient Greece to Medieval Europe via Islamic (Arabic) philosophers, who held the torch of learning and scholarship while the light of European intellectual activity was almost extinguished during the (so-called) "Dark Ages". 1. Influence of Ancient Greek thought on modern culture - the Arts, Science and Religion 2.. The significant influence of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers on Arabic science, and thus early medieval university curricula 3. The “Dark Ages” in Europe (and how they didn’t happen) 4. The rise of Islam and the impact of Islamic scholarship 5. The recovery of Greek thought by Latin Europe from Arab sources 6. Humanism, the revival of classical antiquity thus leading to: 7. The Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution

Course aim

This course provides students (particularly those who studied history in the British tradition) with a more accurate and nuanced view of the way in which European science and culture developed.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Discuss the ways in which history has been taught in schools in the British tradition, and the extent to which that teaching has neglected the influence of Arab scientists and philosophers on modern science and culture
  • Identify and discuss the some influences of medieval Islamic science on modern science and culture
  • Identify the main characters of medieval science (both Arabic and European) and understand (in broad terms) their individual role in the development of medieval Islamic science
  • Identify some of the routes by which Greek science was transferred to European scientists via Islamic scholars, and the particular influences on recognised European philosphers including Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler
  • Discuss the argument on the extent to which Islamic scholarship provided stimuli for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • Readings will be suggested during each weekly session - these are not mandatory, however, for completion of the course.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • No pre-course work is necessary, although the following works provide accessible introductions: Science and Islam (Ehsan Masood, 2009) Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Jim al-Khalili, 2010) Aladdin's Lamp (John Freely, 2009)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full Course information sheet

The Light Ages


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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