The Islamic Golden Age

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

14 Jan 2019 - 01 Apr 2019
Day of week

The Islamic Golden Age


The Islamic Golden Age lasted for 500 years, from the founding of the Abbasid Caliphate’s new capital, Baghdad, in 762 CE, until the Mongol Sack of the city, in 1258. Its cultural and intellectual impact would be felt across the region and beyond, in such distant and distinct locations as Cairo, Cordoba, and the cities of Persia.

Covering the political, social, religious and cultural histories of the Islamic Golden Age, this course will discuss advances in such diverse fields as science, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy, as well as Arabic poetry and literature, from ‘wine songs’ to 1001 Nights. In addition to examining the periods intellectual roots, we will also explore the global legacy of the Islamic Golden Age, including the roots of the European Renaissance.

Programme details

Term Starts:   14th January     

No Class on 11th or 18th March

Week 1:          Introduction: Islamic? Golden? Age?     

Week 2:          Foundations: All roads lead to Baghdad

Week 3:          Science: Theories and experimentation

Week 4:          Mathematics: Algebra made fun (really!)

Week 5:          Religion and philosophy: Forms of knowledge

Week 6:          Medicine: in sickness and in health, in Persia

Week 7:          Learning and Leisure: Life in Andalusia

Week 8:          Literatures: poetry, wine songs, and 1001 Nights

Week 9:          Astronomy and Optics: In Cairo and on the moon

Week 10:         Legacies: What followed the Sack of Baghdad?


Background Reading List

Gearon, E., The History and Achievments of the Islamic Golden Age

Bennison, A., The Great Caliphs

Hitti, P.K., History of the Arabs, 10th edition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002): chapters 23-33, 37, and 38.

Hourani, A., A History of the Arab Peoples, 2nd edition (Faber and Faber, 2013): chapters 2-12.


If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Mr Eamonn Gearon

Eamonn Gearon is an historian, author and lecturer who lived across the Middle East for more than 20 years. He is currently conducting DPhil research, at the University of Oxford, into the role of British military intelligence in the creation of the modern Middle East.

Course aims

This course will introduce students both to a vital era in the intellectual history of mankind as well as a dynamic period of Middle Eastern history, and provide them with the skills to interpret the global legacy of the Islamic Golden Age.

Course Objectives

1. To examine the roots and spread of the Islamic Golden Age in its historical context.

2. To explore the various expressions of intellectual advancement during this period.

3. To reflect upon the legacy of the Islamic Golden Age.

Teaching methods

Each session will begin with an illustrated lecture, introducing the week’s topic or theme. This will be followed by an open discussion of some key ideas, during which debate will be aided by reference to a number of short written texts and or visual sources. These will be distributed during the previous week’s session, and via email.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to:

1. Describe what is meant by the Islamic Golden Age, and why it is so called.

2. Explain intellectual or material advances in at least one field of endeavour from the period.

3. Demonstrate an ability to critically engage with a variety of textual sources.

Assessment methods

Students will have a choice of either a portfolio of three, 500-word pieces (Option A) or a single, 1,500-word essay (Option B). For both Options A and B the tutor will offer suggested titles, or students may create their own, with the tutor's approval.  

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Students do not require any background knowledge or experience in order to take this course.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)