Course outline


Study guides


Research guides

Essay FAQs

Essay Training

Essay grading scheme


Wikipedia Project


Academic honesty

Students with disabilities




HSCI 3453-001

Spring Semester 2018


Instructor:     Peter Barker 
e-mail:          (BarkerP [at] ou [dot] edu)
tel.:              325-2242
Office:         PHSC 617
Office hours: MW 2:00-3:00pm, TuTh 10:00-11:00am, or by appt.

Class times: HSCI 402, TuTh 1:30--2:45pm
Course work: Students are expected to attend lectures and participate in class discussion. Individuals or groups will also be asked to gather information and report to the class, on an ad hoc basis. Outside class, students are expected to read assigned texts, take Topic Tests, and write research essays. In addition to attending class students should expect to spend a minimum of 6 hours per week on course work.

This is a Dream Course, supported by the Office of the President, University of Oklhoma. An associated series of public lectures with the same title as the course is included here for information only. Student attendance of these lectures is optional, but see below 'Extra Credit'.

Course Goals: Content: to present the mutually enriching connections between Islamic and European culture, with special attention to connections between Islamic science and Italian Renaissance art, the European medical tradition, and European astronomy, culminating in the work of Galileo Galilei. Skills: critical reading; writing that emphasizes the reasoned defense of conclusions; gathering, evaluation and synthesis of information using print and electronic sources, collaboration on group projects.

Student preparation: This is an advanced humanities course: students are expected to be able to write essays, conduct independent research and read challenging books critically. In addition, the course presupposes a basic level of general knowledge about recent history. A graded test on class Organization and Procedures will be given on January 28.


Readings form background to class material for the week they are listed and should be read before class.


Adam J. Silverstein, Islamic History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Very Short Introduction No. 220.
Hans Belting, Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science. Deborah Lucas Schneider (tr.). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard U. Pr., 2011.
Peter E. Pormann and Emilie Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007.
George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance. Boston: MIT Press, 2008).

Additional reading will be available through CANVAS

Study guides

Study Guides for Belting, Pormann and Savage-Smith, click [here]

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Course outline (last corrected 27 Mar 2018)

week 1 General Historical framework - I: Synoptic histories of Islamic civilization, and what is wrong with them; defects of the “Rise and Decline” thesis for Islamic science; tips for reading Arabic in English; important names and concepts.
Reading: Silverstein 1-79
JAN 15 MLK day - no class
JAN 17 Introduction; basic concepts. view Reading and Note Taking

week 2 General Historical framework - II: Synoptic histories of Islamic civilization, and what is wrong with them; defects of the “Rise and Decline” thesis for Islamic science; tips for reading Arabic in English; important names and concepts..
Reading: Silverstein, 80-139
The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West, 25-37.
JAN 22 Research Essay training, view Using Quotations and Thesis and Introduction
JAN 24 O&P test; Research Essay training, view Structure and Style and Syntax

week 3 General Historical framework - III: The Mediterranean in the Age of Mehmed II.
Giancarlo Casale, "Global Politics in the 1580s: One Canal, Twenty Thousand Cannibals and an Ottoman Plot to Rule the World",
    Journal of World History, 18 (3), 2007, pp. 267-96.
JAN 29 Research Essay training, view Citation Guide
JAN 31 Research Essay training, view Citation Guide

week 4 General Historical framework - IV: The origins of science in Islam
Reading: Saliba, Ch.'s 1-3
FEB 05   Deadlne for ESSAY TRAINING TEST; Continue essay research; plan essay
FEB 07   Continue essay research;

week 5 Guest speaker: Dr. John Stewart. Alchemy and the origins of Chemistry
FEB 12  Continue essay research; write essay
FEB 14  Continue essay research; finalize essay

week 6 Islamic medicine as the foundation of the European medical tradition - I; Historical origins, Islamic medical theory.
Reading: Pormann & Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, Ch.’s 1, 2;
FEB 19  Continue essay research; draft and correct essay
FEB 21  Continue essay research; draft and correct essay

week 7 Islamic medicine as the foundation of the European medical tradition - II:
Physicians, hospitals and medical practice.
Reading: Pormann & Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, Ch. 3.
FEB 26 Continue essay research; finalize essay
FEB 28 Continue essay research; finalize essay

week 8 Islamic medicine as the foundation of the European medical tradition - III:
Reading: Pormann & Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, Ch. 4, 5, 6
MAR 05Start Wikipedia training
MAR 07 Deadline to establish Wikipedia account; report username to Instructor.
Deadline for Research Essay #1 due (Topics in Islamic History)

week 9 Islamic science and Renaissance Art - I: The problem of perspective in Islam and the Latin West;
the alleged development of aniconic art in Islam.
Reading: Belting, Florence & Baghdad, Ch.’s 1, 2 , 3
MAR 12 Continue Wikipedia training
MAR 14: Continue Wikipedia training


week 10 Islamic science and Renaissance Art - II: The development of perspectival art in Florence;
Islamic influences on Brunelleschi and Alberti; perspectival art as background for Galileo.
Reading: Belting, Florence & Baghdad, Ch.’s 4, 5, 6; Galileo Galilei, Sidereus Nuncius (Venice, 1610), extracts in English translation..
MAR 26: Deadline to complete Wikiedia training; begin group project.
MAR 28: Group research project

Weeks 11-13: Visit, outside class, the astronomy and cosmology exhibits at Bizzell Library,
which form part of the Galileo’s World exhibition.

week 11 Astronomy and Cosmology from al-Tusi to Galileo: The Maragha Observatory; al-Tusi and his successors;
APR 02 Group research project
APR 04 Group research project;
Reading: Saliba, Islamic Science, Ch.’s 4, 5

week 12 Astronomy and Cosmology from al-Tusi to Galileo - II: Copernicus and the Arabs; Galileo and Copernicus.
APR 09:  Group research project
APR 11:  Group research project
Reading: Saliba, Islamic Science, Ch.’s 6, 7.

week 13 Astronomy and Cosmology from al-Tusi to Galileo - IV: The “Rise and Decline” thesis for Islamic science refuted;
Ibn al-Shatir, Ali Qushji and the Samarquand observatory; Islamic astronomy as a mature, international scientific community.
Reading: TBA
APR 16 - exchange draft Wikipedia projects for peer review
APR 18 - return drafts projects with suggestions for improvement; Class visit by Michael Tigar (Tigar-Hare Studios)

week 14 Art, Medicine and Cosmology: Islamic sciences converge in Galileo’s World.
Reading: George Saliba, “Whose Science is Arabic Science in Renaissance Europe?”
APR 23 finalize Group project
APR 25Deadline for submission of Wikipedia group project

week 15 New ways to understand the relations between Islam and the West.
APR 30: Reports on Wikipedia projects
MAY 02: Reports on Wikipedia projects 

Final Exam: 8:00am-10:00am Friday, May 11

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There will be a graded test covering course Organization and Policies on January 24.
Students will also complete two research projects. The first will be a single-author Essay, to be submitted no later than February 28. The second will be a group Wikipedia project, to be completed no later than April 25, with a report in class the following week. See separate instructions for Research Essay and Wikipedia group project.
The Final Examination will be an essay examination, held in the same room as the class 8:00-10:00pm on Friday May 11. The Final Examination questions will be posted on the class web site at least one week prior to the exam. Students may consult books and notes during the exam, but transcription of complete answers is prohibited.

Grades will be computed as follows: O&P test 5%; test on essay fundamentals 5%; research essay 20%; establish Wikipedia account and report username 5%; complete Wikipedia training 5%; submit project for peer review (Group) 5%; return peer review (Group) 5%; complete Wikipedia Project (Group) 20%; report on Wikipedia project 5%; Final exam 20%; participation 5%. Students who miss three classes will be penalized one letter grade within this grade item. However, it is the policy of the University to excuse absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required class work that may fall on religious holidays. If you wish to be excused for religious observances, please contact the Instructor at least one week before you will be absent, in order to reschedule the corresponding work.
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Extra Credit is available for all major assignments except the Final

Academic honesty

We assume you understand and adhere to the norms of academic honesty stated in A Student's Guide to Academic Integrity at the University of Oklahoma. We also assume you are honest unless proven otherwise, so if you are not sure about something ask us. We encourage you to work together (and with us) to prepare for class, exams and essays -- on the understanding that the final version is all your own work. 'Plagiarism' used to mean copying out of a book. Electronic media like Wikipedia and blogs pose special problems. While we encourage you to use them as sources of ideas and information, no sentence that you submit as your own work should be identical to any sentence in a book or electronic medium. If we judge that work you submit fails to meet these standards, the following things will happen:
(1) On the first occasion, you will be asked to amend the work and resubmit it to receive a grade.
(2) On the second occasion you will receive a formal admonition, as explained in Rights and Responsibilities under the Academic Misconduct Code, and a grade of zero for the work.
(3) On the third occasion, a complaint of academic misconduct will be filed, as explained in Rights and Responsibilities under the Academic Misconduct Code.

Students with disabilities

Students in this course who have any disability that may prevent them from fully demonstrating their abilities should contact the Instructor as soon as possible to discuss accommodations necessary to ensure full participation and facilitate their educational opportunities. 


In this class you will be expected to take part in discussions, work in small groups, contribute to group projects, study and review in groups settings. The University of Oklahoma is a multicultural and multiethnic community. Your time here is a unique opportunity to engage with people from backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences very different from your own. Remember that these people are just like you — they may not have lived in a multicultural, multiethnic community either. The University of Oklahoma expects to provide you with many opportunities to work productively and communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds. By engaging, you will acquire skills that are essential for citizenship in the 21st century.

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