Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science

By Roshdi Rashed; Regis Morelon | Go to book overview

7

The development of Arabic science in Andalusia

JUAN VERNET AND JULIO SAMSÓ


INTRODUCTION

The historical context of this chapter 1 extends from 711 (the date of the first Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula) to 1492, the year when Granada was taken by the Catholic kings, who also brought about the demise of the Banū Naṣr, the last independent Muslim dynasty in Spain.

Within this context we shall study the development of the exact sciences and the physical and natural sciences which had Arabic as their language of expression—even though the sources have sometimes been preserved in Latin, Hebrew, Castilian or even Catalan—in a world politically controlled by Islam, excluding a priori medicine but not pharmacology, given its direct relationships with botany. This means, in principle, leaving aside the contributions (very humble, certainly, but extremely interesting from a socio-historical point of view) of the Mudéjares (Muslims living in a politically Christian environment) and of the Moriscos (Muslims apparently converted to Christianity at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century); the main reason for this exclusion is the lack of precise studies, even though research in this area had been initiated for medicine. 2 With regard to the geographical context, it should be noted that the term Andalusia, as used here, in no way corresponds to the boundaries of the region known as Andalusia today, but is intended to translate the term al-Andalus used by the Arabs to describe Muslim Spain: a political, and often cultural, reality, whose northern border extended to the Pyrenees in the eighth century, but which gradually contracted during the Christian ‘reconquest’ until it became limited to the Kingdom of Granada from the thirteenth century onwards.

The history of this period, spanning nearly eight centuries, is known in a very uneven way: reasonably well up to the twelfth century and then rather poorly, because periods of decline tend to attract much less attention

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