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In the ninth century, Ḥunayn ibn Ishāq decided to explain Greek terminology, instead of simply adopting it, in his translations of the medical treatises of Galen. In doing this he helped establish Arabic as an international language of science.
Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq and the Rise of Arabic as a Language of Science
A 1787 letter requesting plants from the Persian Gulf for a newly established botanical garden in Kolkata illuminates the way in which the pursuit of scientific knowledge became part of the EIC’s global economic endeavour.
A Quest for Knowledge: The Basra Date Palm, the Botanical Garden in Bengal
In the thirteenth century, Ibn al-Nafīs wrote a substantial commentary on Avicenna’s entire Canon of Medicine thereby revising existing understandings of human physiology and anatomy. His theory of the pulmonary transit of blood formed a cornerstone of the modern theory of blood circulation.
Ibn al-Nafīs and Pulmonary Transit
Common household practices such as consuming hot soups and drinks when one has caught a cold are rooted in humoral medicine, which was the dominant medical paradigm from the time of Galen to the nineteenth century (and beyond) across much of the world.
Galenic Humoral Pathology
How did a fourteenth century illustrated ‘Treatise on the Art of Riding and using the Instruments of War’ end up in the British Library’s Arabic manuscript collection? A ‘Nincumpoop’ of the Napoleonic era, who moonlighted as an antiquarian, holds the answer.
Sir Thomas Reade: The ‘Nincumpoop’ Collector of Arabic Manuscripts
The peoples of the Islamic world excelled at designing and building water-clocks as these manuscripts show.
Robots, Musicians and Monsters: The World’s Most Fantastic Clocks
It’s hard to imagine a natural resource as important to the history of the development of the Gulf States as oil. But in the early days of oil exploration, nothing was more important than water.
Water, not Oil, the Most Valuable Resource in the Gulf
In 1920, a gift from Ibn Saud in the form of a female oryx was the first ever to have survived the difficult journey from Arabia to London.
The King’s Oryx: Ibn Saud’s Diplomatic Gift to George V
Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq: a Medieval Arab scholar who transformed his understanding of ancient Greek medical texts into manuals for the benefit of many successive generations of students.
The Making of Medical Manuals: The 'Questions and Answers' Format in Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq’s Medical Manuals
An enormous effort was made to translate almost all known Greek literature into Arabic during the 8th to 10th centuries, and Baghdad was at the centre of this work. Why was it that so many of the translators were Christians?
Why Were So Many of the Greek-Arabic Translators Christians?
During the first four centuries of Islam, almost all the Greek scientific literature available in manuscripts was translated into Arabic in an effort, centred on Baghdad, known as the ‘translation movement’.
Scientific Translators and Powerful Patrons
al-Bīrūnī’s Qānūn is the most complete astronomical encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. It represents the most successful attempt to correct and rewrite Ptolemy’s Almagest, and was based on the results of three centuries of research in Islamic lands.
al-Bīrūnī: a high point in the Development of Islamic Astronomy
How did an illustrated Arabic manuscript on the Art of War come into the possession of an illegitimate son of a King; his extraordinary and ultimately tragic life leading to its acquisition by the British Library?
An Earl, a Collection and a Gun: the Curious Provenance of a British Library Manuscript
Astrology was considered a scientific discipline in the Middle Ages, when political powers patronised astronomical research that was considered necessary for obtaining ‘scientific’ astrological predictions.
Sahl ibn Bishr and the Rise of Astrology in Abbasid Times