The Khwarizm

Louis Proyect referred to Maxime Rodinson's fine histories of Islamic civilization.

I could go on and on about the spectacular prosperity of medieval Khwarizm. The silk roads were they key. Because of them Khwarizm, pre-eminent in trade and industry, culture, science and the arts, doubled in population the 10th century in a boom that made it the hub of the global economy. Prosperity in Europe and China depended on Khwarizm's exports -- steel, copper and silver products, ceramics, the bullion that gave Europe its first gold coinage since Roman times, dyes, spices, carpets, silks and textiles -- stimulated growth in Flanders, Italy and southern Britain, helping drag them from the Dark Ages. Progress was general and not confined to trade. Khwarizmian philosophers and scientists laid the basis for the coming upthrust of Western science and technology. Mathematician al-Khwarizmi, inventor of algebra, gave his name to the algorithm, foundation of computer-science. Arabo-Persian science gave the world other words: alcohol, alkali and elixir in chemistry, azimuth, nadir, zenith in astronomy, the names of stars, inventions like the astrolabe and the quadrant. Lenses, theories of light, optics; in medicine, antiseptic drugs, the contagion theory of disease, the discovery of blood-circulation, ophthalmology. The number (0), Zero, the decimal system, arithmetic and trigonometry were also their achievements. Al-Khwarizmi's book on mathematics is among the oldest known, but it exists only in translation. Rulers built universities, an educational idea enthusiastically adopted in Paris, Oxford and Cambridge. Their scholars assimilated the ancient wisdom of Persia and the classical heritage of Greece and transmitted it to Europeans hungry for knowledge (the Crusaders famously had 'Fifty Optical Questions Put To Muslim Scholars'). Arab observatories plotted celestial movements and established the circumference of the earth at a time when there was not one observatory in the whole of Europe.

Mark Jones