Impact of the Islamic Culture on the Medieval West Essay

The Arab-Muslim syncretic culture had a strong impact on the development of Medieval culture. In the years of the Caliphate, there was created an organic fusion of cultural traditions in the cities and the capital Baghdad as a result of the mutual influence and cultural enrichment of different ethnic and religious groups. This culture fusion had not only made a lot of contributions to the development of the Medieval West but also had created the conditions for its further influence and expansion what is the thesis of the essay. The three most important contributions of the Islamic culture to the Medieval West should be discussed to support the thesis.

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Practical Shipbuilding and Cartography as a Contribution to Spatial Expansion of Islamic Culture

First of all, the contribution to the medieval shipbuilding and cartography should be discussed. Arabs used the experience of the Indian Ocean, where jib-headed sail, later called "Latin", was widely used. In particular, Arabs were the first, who used it in the Mediterranean Sea. Previously, carracks with the square sail, which moved only by the wind, were mostly used there. European mariners borrowed jib-headed sail, combined it with a square sail, and eventually created a transoceanic boat. The greatest progress has been made in the period of 1440-1490 due to the use of this boat by the Spanish and Portuguese mariners. Later, the number of masts and sails was increased; mixed rigging (square sail for the foremast and jib-headed sail for the mainmast and mizenmast) came into use. Sailing maps (portolans) and more accurate geographical information about the different parts of the world were collected on the basis of Muslim maps and books.

Sicily king Roger II (1130 – 1154) and his son William I (1154 – 1166) had a lot of information about India, China, and North Africa. Under their patronage, al-Idrisi from Cordova (1100 – 1166) created a complete description of the famous Muslim world. He studied the works of predecessors based on questioning travelers and their impressions from trips. He created a series of 70 maps and added a cover description (Banitalebi, Kamaruzaman & Mohd, 2012). Thus, the reason for choosing this contribution to discuss is the following: it has helped to further expansion of the Islamic culture amplifying the impact through the development of shipbuilding and cartography.

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Agriculture Development as a Food Base for the Impact of Islamic Culture

The Islamic contribution to agriculture of the Medieval West should be discussed. Arabs did not like agriculture, but they have made great strides in this sphere. Even in Spain, they did a lot for its development. There has been little precipitation (except north), and most kinds of farming were impossible without irrigation. Irrigation system existed before the Romans and Visigoths. Arabs have expanded and improved it on the basis of the experience of the Middle East regarding the distribution and conservation of water. It is evidenced by numerous Spanish words that come from the Arabic language and the similarity between the shape of waterwheels in Spain, Morocco, and the Middle East. Development of irrigation has led to using widespread water-demanding crops: sugar cane, rice, oranges, lemons, aubergines, artichokes, and cotton (Koshul, n.d.). Thus, the reason behind this contribution choice is the following: this contribution has created the conditions in which regions of the proliferation of the Islamic culture were in a better food situation. This "created a food base" for further proliferation.

Paper Making on an Industrial Scale as a Way to Preserve the Cultural Heritage

The most important contribution of the Islamic culture to the Medieval West was a method of making cheap paper on an industrial scale. Arabs borrowed the practice of papermaking from China: in the middle of the VIII century, several Chinese prisoner artisans bought freedom for the secret how to make paper that was cheaper than Egyptian papyrus. In the year 800, the first paper mill was built in Baghdad. From Syria and North Africa, a secret of paper production got to Spain. In the XII century, French pilgrims of Compostela brought a few pages of paper as a curiosity. Although King Roger II began using paper in 1090, in Italy and Germany, paper mills appeared only in the XIV century. West took over the art of making paper and doing paper clerical work from the Muslims. Printing is also associated with the Arabs. Crusaders borrowed the ancient knowledge of the Egyptians, which have contributed to the development of printing in Europe. At that time, this profession had being developed in Cordoba. It should be noted that in the XII century more susceptible Genoese had to take over letters manual typing for bank documents before the collapse of the Iranian bank (O'Neill, 2009).

After that, Arabs replaced flax with cotton, a large amount of which grew in Algeria and Egypt. As a result, papermaking began to develop extremely rapidly. Therefore, the paper became a cheaper source for recording scientific knowledge. This has contributed to the creation of a large number of books. This contribution was chosen as one of the most important ones as the paper was a material mediator in terms of fixation and preservation of Islamic cultural heritage.


Three most important contributions of the Islamic culture to the Medieval West include the sphere of shipbuilding and cartography (it helped spatial expansion), agriculture (it created a food base for regions with further influence and widening), and the manufacture of cheap paper on an industrial scale (creation of a way for recording and preserving the rich cultural heritage). Thus, Islamic culture has not only made three important contributions but also created the conditions for its further expansion and preservation, which confirms the thesis of the essay.

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