W4983: Science and Empire from Baghdad to Byzantium | A. Roberts

Graduate Seminar
Tu 2:10-4PM

This seminar explores the flourishing world of medieval science and scientists in the Byzantine and Islamic empires. Scholars read and wrote books on astronomy, medicine, alchemy, and other subjects in a variety of changing social and political contexts. What was the nature of the relationship between science and empire, between knowledge and power, in Byzantium and the medieval Islamic world? How did specialized knowledge and its bearers serve, subvert, and complicate imperial agendas? What was science understood to entail, and to what end? The course is designed for students interested in the history of science, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern empires, and/or the pre-modern world. It introduces students to medieval Greek and Arabic science and political contexts, from roughly the 7th to the 12th century. Readings from primary sources (in translation) and modern scholarship will be analyzed and discussed with respect to several interrelated themes, including: knowledge in the service of empire; communities of knowledge-producers (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other); narratives of the history of science and their political significance; and taxonomies of the sciences.