Lost Enlightenment

  • by S. Frederick Starr
  • Narrated by Kevin Stillwell
  • 25 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this rich and sweeping history, S. Frederick Starr tells the fascinating but largely unknown story of Central Asia's medieval enlightenment through the eventful lives and astonishing accomplishments of its greatest minds - remarkable figures who built a bridge to the modern world. Because nearly all of these figures wrote in Arabic, they were long assumed to have been Arabs. In fact, they were from Central Asia - drawn from the Persianate and Turkic peoples of a region that today extends from Kazakhstan southward through Afghanistan, and from the easternmost province of Iran through Xinjiang, China.
Lost Enlightenment recounts how, between the years 800 and 1200, Central Asia led the world in trade and economic development, the size and sophistication of its cities, the refinement of its arts, and, above all, in the advancement of knowledge in many fields. Central Asians achieved signal breakthroughs in astronomy, mathematics, geology, medicine, chemistry, music, social science, philosophy, and theology, among other subjects. They gave algebra its name, calculated the earth's diameter with unprecedented precision, wrote the books that later defined European medicine, and penned some of the world's greatest poetry.
One scholar, working in Afghanistan, even predicted the existence of North and South America - five centuries before Columbus. Rarely in history has a more impressive group of polymaths appeared at one place and time. No wonder that their writings influenced European culture from the time of St. Thomas Aquinas down to the scientific revolution, and had a similarly deep impact in India and much of Asia.
Lost Enlightenment chronicles this forgotten age of achievement, seeks to explain its rise, and explores the competing theories about the cause of its eventual demise. Informed by the latest scholarship yet presented in a lively and accessible style, this is a book that will surprise general listeners and specialists alike.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An enlightening listen

A superb magnum opus that details the rise, apogee and fall of the Central Asian enlightenment. A particular must for those keen to understand some of the leading characters that shaped the Muslim world in both science, logic and Islamic doctrine (both a catalyst for the enlightenment and a cause in its demise). My favourite bit? Almost certainly the author's adept handling of biographical detail and his analysis of the decline, the implications of which we are still living with. The narration was good, although my one slight criticism would concern the levels at which they recorded the narrator. Sometimes it sounds a little bit compressed.
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- The Village Green

Fascinating, surprising and beautifully written

As a fan of popular history it's always a treat to discover a time and place that have been previously under-reported. A massively influential culture of scientific, philosophical, literary, theological and architectural inquiry springs up from the 8th Century to around the fall of Constantinople in a part of the world that is now largely a lawless backwater - Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. The ideas and techniques they create have a significant impact on the development of world culture, for instance, Al-Khwarizmi's maths is so sophisticated that we still garble his name when we use an "algorithm". There's so much fascinating detail to pack in that this could have become dry or overwhelming but Starr holds our interest throughout by focusing on both the incredibly interesting characters and the astonishingly advanced work they did. It's also very well narrated. A real treat.
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- Jim

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-10-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios