Al-Ghazali was a leading intellectual in the Islamic world of the 11th Century AD, a philosopher, lawyer, teacher, thinker and mystic who made important contributions to Islamic philosophy and to sharia law. The experts on In Our Time who discussed his life and work were Peter Adamson (LMU in Munich), Carole Hillenbrand (Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities) and Robert Gleave (University of Exeter).
In 751AD Arabian and Chinese forces met in battle at a river called Talas in Central Asia. This was to mark the end of the eastward expansion of the Islamic Empire, and the westward expansion of the Chinese Empire. Discussing it on In Our Time were Hilde de Weerdt (Leiden University), Michael Höckelmann (King's College London) and Hugh Kennedy (SOAS, University of London).
The third lecture of the Charles Wilkinson lecture series from 2013, "In Quest of Paradise: Accommodating Death in Islam" was given by Lisa Golombek, and I think was the weakest of the three lectures. I'm not sure if this was down to me not having as much context - I know more about Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia than I do about the early centuries of Islam.
In the third episode of The Making of the Modern Arab World Tarek Osman looked at the rise of political Islam since the 1970s. He started by reminding us of the context for this, which he talked about more in the previous episode (post). As of about 1966 Nasser was both the leader of Egypt and the most prominent public face of Arab Nationalism.
Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities was a series about the history of Byzantium aka Constantinople aka Istanbul presented by Simon Sebag Montefiore that we watched in December last year finishing just before Christmas. Montefiore seems to be specialising in serieses about holy cities - his previous ones have been about Jerusalem (which we watched before I started writing blog posts) and Rome (post).
The Making of the Modern Arab World is a new Radio 4 series about the causes and recent history of the current political situation in the Middle East. It's presented by Tarek Osman, an Egyptian author, along with several interviews with historians or the descendents of notable figures - his focus is on Egypt and Syria in particular. The first episode looks at the development and decline of Arab liberalism.
The Mamluks were a slave army that went on to rule Egypt (and Egypt's empire) for around 300 years between the mid 13th Century & the early 16th Century AD. Although we call it a dynasty the position of sultan was generally not hereditary during this period, and before one could be a sultan one needed to have been a slave. The three experts who discussed it on In Our Time were Amira Bennison (University of Cambridge), Robert Irwin (SOAS, University of London) and Doris Behrens-Abouseif (SOAS, University of London).
Prophecy is an important facet of all three Abrahamic religions, but the interpretation of the role of prophecy (& who the prophets are) is different in each. The experts who talked about it on In Our Time were Mona Siddiqui (University of Edinburgh), Justin Meggitt (University of Cambridge) and Jonathan Stökl (Leiden University).
Instead of starting TV night with our on-going series, we started with a documentary about Syria - watching it first because it was bound to be depressing viewing. A History of Syria with Dan Snow was a This World documentary that looked at the historical underpinnings of the current civil war, to put it into some sort of context.
The third episode of Howard Goodall's Story of Music covered about a hundred years - from 1750 to 1850. This takes us from Haydn to Chopin via Mozart, Beethoven and more. Goodall's two themes for the period were the changing social status of the composer, and the turn to simplicity in musical structure after the complexity of Bach etc.