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The Abbasid Caliphs

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 02 February 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Abbasid Caliphs, dynastic rulers of the Islamic world from the mid eighth to the tenth century. They headed a Muslim empire that extended from Tunisia through Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and Persia to Uzbekistan and the frontiers of India. But unlike previous conquerors, the Abbasid Caliphs presided over a multicultural empire where conversion was a relatively peaceful business. As Vikings raided the shores of Britain, the Abbasids were developing sophisticated systems of government, administration and court etiquette. Their era saw the flowering of Arabic philosophy, mathematics and Persian literature. The Abbasids were responsible for patronising the translation of Classical Greek texts and transmitting them back to a Europe emerging from the Dark Ages. So who were the Abbasid Caliphs and how did they come to power? What was their cultural significance? What factors can account for their decline and fall? And why do they represent a Golden Age of Islamic civilisation? With Hugh Kennedy, Professor of History at the University of St Andrews; Robert Irwin, Senior Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies; University of London; Amira Bennison, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.

  • Further Reading

    Robert Irwin, For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies (Penguin, 2006)

    Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A companion (Penguin, 1994)

    Hugh Kennedy, The Court of the Caliphs: When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World (Phoenix, 2004)

    Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs (London, 2001)

    Saleh Said Agha, The Revolution which Toppled the Umayyads (Leiden, 2003)

    Roger Allen, The Arabic Literary Heritage (Cambridge, 1998)

    Jonathan Bloom, Paper before Print: the history and impact of paper in the Islamic World (London, 2001)

    T. El-Hibri, Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun al Rashid and the Narrative of the Abbasid Caliphate (Cambridge, 1999)

    Dmitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (London, 1998)

Credits

Presenter
Melvyn BRAGG
Producer
Natasha MAW

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