Pertinent study that should aid in a better understanding between East and West.

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THE HOUSE OF WISDOM

HOW THE ARABS TRANSFORMED WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Former Reuters editor and foreign correspondent Lyons fashions an accessible study about early Western acquisition of scientific knowledge from the Arab world.

Wading through centuries of anti-Muslim propaganda, Lyons traces how the brilliance of Arab knowledge, brought back by visiting scholars from intellectual centers like Baghdad, Antioch and Cordoba, transformed Western notions of science and philosophy. The Western “recovery” of classical learning, as championed later in the Renaissance, was actually first transmitted by these early Arab giants of learning, many of whom emerged from the Baghdad think tank, translation bureau and book repository called the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikma), built by Caliph al-Mansur in the eighth century. The Baghdad court linked the triumphs of classical wisdom—especially that of the Greeks—with Persian, Hindu and other traditions, spurring the work of significant Arab thinkers such as al-Khwarizmi, who developed star tables, algebra and the astrolabe; al-Idrisi, who accepted a royal commission by Roger II of once-Muslim Sicily to construct the first comprehensive world’s map, The Book of Roger; Avicenna, a Persian philosopher and physician who was an authority on medicine; and Averroes, the Muslim philosopher whose commentaries on Aristotle were a major contribution to Western thought. Lyons capably delineates the fascinating journey of this knowledge to the West, highlighting a few key figures, including Adelard of Bath, whose years spent in Antioch paid off grandly in bringing forth his translations of Euclid and al-Khwarizmi; and Michael Scot, science adviser and court astrologer to Frederick II, who translated Avicenna and Averroes. Lyons cleverly—though too briefly—ties these early theories to the work of Thomas Aquinas and Copernicus and the subsequent “invention of the West.”

Pertinent study that should aid in a better understanding between East and West.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-459-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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