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By the twelfth century Western scholars were seeking out and translating Arabic texts on astronomy, medicine, mathematics, the natural sciences, metaphysics, alchemy and magic. These works were to have a profound influence on European scientists and philosophers. At the same time Islam was acknowledged as the great rival of Christianity and there was consequently a deep curiosity in the West about its sacred text, the Qur’an, and about the religious precepts of a faith that soon covered an immense geographical area. Western curiosity about the Near and Middle East soon extended to the languages spoken there, and this, in turn, led to an interest in the literature produced in the area. From the 16th century on professorships in Arabic were set up in many European universities. They were attended by the publication of grammars and dictionaries, while Arabic texts were edited and translated. The consequence of this process was an ever greater knowledge not only of the Arabic language but also of Arab history, Islam and the Arabic-speaking Christian communities, and Arabic literature. By the early eighteenth century Europeans were being introduced to Arabic poetry and above all to Arabic story-telling in the shape of one of the most successful works of the time, the Arabian Nights.

The Centre for the History of Arabic Studies in Europe (CHASE) is dedicated to the study of the history of European-Arab relations from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century. It is directed by Professor Charles Burnett and Professor Alastair Hamilton. The Academic Co-ordinator, Dr Jan Loop, is entrusted with the organization of the Centre.

Closely linked with the Warburg Institute (University of London) and the unique collections of the Arcadian Library, London, CHASE is a ground breaking institution in this field. It assembles the leading experts in the history of European Arabic studies, whose combined track record is of the highest standard. The objectives of the Centre include the promotion of research on the transmission of Arab scientific, philosophical, medical, theological and geographical knowledge in the Middle Ages and in early modern times; the deepening of our understanding of the historical flow of ideas and knowledge between the Arab world and Europe; and the enhancement of our appreciation of the impact of the Muslim/Arab world on the development of European science and civilization. CHASE proposes to organize conferences – the first will be on translations of the Qur’an; to establish a number of data bases – one mapping the teaching of Arabic throughout Europe, another listing the western editions and translations of Arabic texts, and the third charting the collection of Arabic manuscripts; and to found a number of fellowships, a lectureship, and a professorship.

As a counterweight to the perceived superiority of Western culture in recent times, the Centre’s research and teaching will show the extent to which Western culture is indebted to developments in the Arab world from the Middle Ages onwards. It will make a fundamental contribution to a better understanding of many of today’s intercultural and interreligious tensions.


Arab Culture and the
European Renaissance
A lecture by 
Prof. Alastair Hamilton

Translating the Qur'an
Conference podcast
now online

The European Discovery
of Arab Culture
A lecture by 
Prof. Charles Burnett 
at the Royal Society