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CLIP 12109

How an astrolabe brought Jews, Arabs and Christians together (audio)

How an astrolabe brought Jews, Arabs and Christians together (audio)

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Key Info
  • How an astrolabe brought Jews, Arabs and Christians together (audio)
  • Duration: 13:00
  • An astrolabe was a device for telling the time, navigating by the stars, a tool for surveying and for creating horoscopes. The sat-nav or smart phone of its day! Neil MacGregor tells the story of its significance for the Abrahamic religions: Jews, Christians and Islam, during a time of 'convivencia' or casual co-existence. Neil MacGregor describes the object's appearance and goes into more detail as to its functions. There is a reading from a letter by Geoffrey Chaucer to his son, giving instructions on how to use an astrolabe. Curator Silke Ackerman describes what the Hebrew inscriptions on the astrolabe tell us about its origins, mixing Jewish, Islamic and Classical Greek scientific knowledge. Historian Sir John Elliott describes how this early example of multiculturalism in medieval Spain worked in practice. There was a great mixing of knowledge and ideas, but intermarriage was not tolerated and there was discrimmination against Jews and Muslims by the Christian authorities. Neil MacGregor describes the collapse of 'convivencia' as Jews and Muslims were eventually expelled from Christian Spain. This clip was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of the ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ series. Please note this is an audio clip and only available in Flash.
  • Subject:



    Medieval: Social and Religious Life

  • Keywords: Hebrew, Spain, navigation, satnav, science, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, tolerance, geography, physics, HistoryoftheWorld
Ideas for use in class
  • Students can use this clip as part of a Spanish history project that allows them to recognise the rich cultural and scientific harmony between three very different traditions at the height of the Golden Age in Spain. Cross link to Geography and Physics. Images of the object and further information, including a full transcription of the programme, can be found on the programme page:
Background details
  • Clip language : English
  • Aspect ratio : 16x9

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