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Thread: Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The history of a controversy2450 days old

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    Default Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The history of a controversy

    Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
    Author: Emmet Scott


    During the 1920s Belgian historian Henri Pirenne came to an astonishing conclusion: the ancient classical civilization, which Rome had established throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world, was not destroyed by the Barbarians who invaded the western provinces in the fifth century, it was destroyed by the Arabs, whose conquest of the Middle East and North Africa terminated Roman civilization in those regions and cut off Europe from any further trading and cultural contact with the East. According to Pirenne, it was only in the mid-seventh century that the characteristic features of classical life disappeared from Europe, after which time the continent began to develop its own distinctive and somewhat primitive medieval culture.

    Pirenne’s findings, published posthumously in his Mohammed et Charlemagne (1937), were even then highly controversial, for by the late nineteenth century many historians were moving towards a quite different conclusion: namely that the Arabs were actually a civilizing force who rekindled the light of classical learning in Europe after it had been extinguished by the Goths, Vandals and Huns in the fifth century. And because Pirenne went so diametrically against the grain of this thinking, the reception of his new thesis tended to be hostile. Paper after paper published during the 1940s and ‘50s strove to refute him. The most definitive rebuttal however appeared in the early 1980s. This was Mohammed, Charlemagne and the Origins of Europe, by English archaeologists Richard Hodges and David Whitehouse. These, in common with Pirenne’s earlier critics, argued that classical civilization was already dead in Europe by the time of the Arab conquests, and that the Arabs arrived on the scene as civilizers rather than destroyers. Hodges and Whitehouse claimed that the latest findings of archaeology fully supported this view, and their work was highly influential. So influential indeed that over the next three decades Pirenne and his thesis was progressively sidelined, so that recent years have seen the publication of dozens of titles in the English language alone which fail even to mention his name.

    In Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited historian Emmet Scott reviews the evidence put forward by Hodges and Whitehouse, as well as the more recent findings of archaeology, and comes to a rather different conclusion. For him, the evidence shows that classical civilization was not dead in Europe at the start of the seventh century, but was actually experiencing something of a revival. Populations and towns were beginning to grow again for the first time since this second century – a development apparently attributable largely to the spread of Christianity. In addition, the real centres of classical civilization, in the Middle East, were experiencing an unprecedented Golden Age at the time, with cities larger and more prosperous than ever before. Excavation has shown that these were destroyed thoroughly and completely by the Arab conquests, with many never again reoccupied. And it was precisely then, says Scott, that Europe’s classical culture also disappeared, with the abandonment of the undefended lowland villas and farms of the Roman period and a retreat to fortified hilltop settlements; the first medieval castles.

    For Scott, archaeology demonstrated that the Arabs did indeed blockade the Mediterranean through piracy and slave-raiding, precisely as Pirenne had claimed, and he argues that the disappearance of papyrus from Europe was an infallible proof of this. Whatever classical learning survived after this time, says Scott, was due almost entirely to the efforts of Christian monks.

    The Pirenne thesis has taken on a new significance in the post 9/11 world. Scott’s take on the theory will certainly ignite further and perhaps heated debate.
    I'm looking forward to read this book. Scott has included tons of archaeological data in the book to support his thesis that the fall of the classical civilization was because of the Islamic caliphates and not barbarian invasions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Simi View Post
    Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
    Author: Emmet Scott

    I'm looking forward to read this book. Scott has included tons of archaeological data in the book to support his thesis that the fall of the classical civilization was because of the Islamic caliphates and not barbarian invasions.
    Rather a silly "feel-good" Europe centric theory, which is based on even sillier notions like that Muslims were behind the sack of Alexandria and that they suppressed free thought, so gentlemen, do I even need to go on?

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    Western Europe in the 7th century was on the slippery slope to cultural nullity before the Muslims invaded.

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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager View Post
    Western Europe in the 7th century was on the slippery slope to cultural nullity before the Muslims invaded.
    ....

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJourney View Post
    Rather a silly "feel-good" Europe centric theory, which is based on even sillier notions like that Muslims were behind the sack of Alexandria and that they suppressed free thought, so gentlemen, do I even need to go on?
    I think it's silly to criticize a book you haven't even read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OskarAnsgard View Post
    I think it's silly to criticize a book you haven't even read.
    I criticize it because it compares the quantity and quality of the 15-20k scripts of Charlemagne's "great library" which were collected under 30 years to a +400k script Great Library of Toledo and a much greater one in Cordoba (let alone the Vaults of Knowledge of Baghdad) collected after centuries of continues scientific development.

    It is a pitiful attempt to show a Catholic kingdom which burned women at stake simply because of their hair color being under the heel of Vatican while some of the greatest moral and mental midgets ruled over the seat of CC, superior to an Elective Monarchy (after the Caliphate degenerated from Republicanism) with freedom of speech, rights of private property and religious freedom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJourney View Post
    I criticize it because it compares the quantity and quality of the 15-20k scripts of Charlemagne's "great library" which were collected under 30 years to a +400k script Great Library of Toledo and a much greater one in Cordoba (let alone the Vaults of Knowledge of Baghdad) collected after centuries of continues scientific development.

    It is a pitiful attempt to show a Catholic kingdom which burned women at stake simply because of their hair color being under the heel of Vatican while some of the greatest moral and mental midgets ruled over the seat of CC, superior to an Elective Monarchy (after the Caliphate degenerated from Republicanism) with freedom of speech, rights of private property and religious freedom.
    Are you really going to attempt criticizing a text that you haven't even read yourself?

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    Incredibly ludicrous assertion made by the author...

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    Quote Originally Posted by OskarAnsgard View Post
    Are you really going to attempt criticizing a text that you haven't even read yourself?
    I skimmed trough the copy I bought trough utorrent

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJourney View Post
    I criticize it because it compares the quantity and quality of the 15-20k scripts of Charlemagne's "great library" which were collected under 30 years to a +400k script Great Library of Toledo and a much greater one in Cordoba (let alone the Vaults of Knowledge of Baghdad) collected after centuries of continues scientific development.
    If the reason for Western Europe descending into an intellectual backwards society in the 7th and 8th century was a result of the Arab/Muslim expansion then that could explain Charlemagne's piss poor library in comparison to that of Cordoba's and Toledo's a century later. Your post doesn't go against the Frenchman's thesis but rather supports it.

    That being said, people in Western Europe forget about the Byzantines and despite losing territory and finally their empire itself to Muslims, Constantinople was a beacon of cultural and intellectual awesomeness during the centuries that Western Europe was in decline until the fall of the city. It was the religious conflict between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy that cut Western Europe off. That would be my argument for the cultural decline of Western Europe. The Greeks/Byzantines who fled to after the collapse of the Byzantine empire would later be a blessing to Western Europe.
    Last edited by Anodyne; 2013-01-06 at 20:47.

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