HIST 13184-8: Best Frenemy: Islam and the Making of Western Culture

Instructor: Thomas E. Burman

History University Seminar

While Islam has often been seen as European/Western Civilization's great enemy, and while there has intermittently been bloody confrontation between Christians and Muslims, Islam has also been, especially in the pre-modern world, deeply admired by Europeans for its great scientific, philosophical, and technical sophistication, for its grand literary tradition, and for its alluring architecture and art. Indeed, Islam--Western Christendom's best frenemy--played a formative and essential role in the creation of the culture we call Western. This seminar will consist of a series of case-studies of the influence of Islamic Civilization on the West, ranging from the technology of the astrolabe (the mobile phone of the medieval world), to the Islamicized architecture of Christian Spain, to the terrific Arab stories retold in countless European languages, to the Arab-Islamic names of Shriner Temples (and the North-African head dress of their members).

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