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Out of Arabia: Phoenicians, Arabs, and the Discovery of Europe (Asia in Europe and the Making of the West) Paperback – December 23, 2009
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About the Author
Warwick Ball A Near Eastern archaeologist and author who has carried out excavations, architectural studies and monumental restoration in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and elsewhere. He is currently directory of Eastern Approaches, a special-interest cultural tours company specialising in the East.
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Top customer reviews
Ball gives a very well-documented, insightful, and readable introduction to these themes. I was so pleased with OUT OF ARABIA that I have recently ordered the second of the series: TOWARDS ONE WORLD: ANCIENT PERSIA AND THE WEST. I recommend OUT OF ARABIA to any student of history or culture. This series should be used in college classes on Western Civilization or World History, especially to dispel the all-too-frequent Western arrogance and ethnocentrism. There really is--and always has been--a much larger world out there.
So what is the book about, in a nutshell Europeans did not open up and discover an unknown larger world of Africa, India, China etc, the Arabs had been there before and also into Europe. In fact, Europe was so backwards at times that it was largely ignored for lack of significance at some points in the "Dark Ages". In order to build his case he defines Arab rather broadly probably so that Arabs are nearly everywhere in the medieval world. Warwick is a Near Eastern archaeologist by training and he gives Islamic culture a little more credit for preserving the classics than I read the evidence as supporting, I am inclined to credit the Syriac Christian scholars under the employ of Muslim Arabic masters for being the key factor at times. Perhaps this is something which he unintentionally downplays, by tending to lump Syriac speakers in with Arabic speaking scholars under the loose term Arab, to be sure later Arabic scholars were numerous but the key preservers of the classics were from the Christians not the Muslims, in other words if the Syriac Christian scholars had not been there to pass on the knowledge to the Arab Muslim scholars then we indeed might have lost a good deal of classical knowledge (you would really have to read very closely to see that he allows for this possibility, without explicitly ever saying so, I suspect because of his agenda to show Islamic civilization in a similar light to that of Judeo-Christian civilization. And his agenda makes sense if you look at some anti-Muslim commentary floating out on the internet about what Muslims have ever contributed to civilization in contrasts to Jews and Christians.)
His references are few, so the book tends to read easily enough, but to my mind, a bit unsupported by rigorous scholarly interaction and perhaps a bit out of his field at times. Its an okay book, I suspect that some people with little background in the area will find it fascinating, but might have mixed reactions to some of his assertions about some religious ideas and practices, some liking/loving, others perhaps being a bit upset. I believe that this was the first volume of four examining the historical backdrop to East-West relations, so a timely series.