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Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe

Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe


  • Date Published: February 2001
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521778527

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About the Authors
  • Historians have long recognized that the rebirth of science in twelfth-century Europe flowed from a search for ancient scientific texts. But this search presupposes knowledge and interest; we only seek what we know to be valuable. The emergence of scholarly interest after centuries of apparent stagnation seems paradoxical. This book resolves that seeming contradiction by describing four active traditions of early medieval astronomy: one divided the year by observing the Sun; another computed the date of Easter Full Moon; the third determined the time for monastic prayers by watching the course of the stars; and the classical tradition of geometrical astronomy provided a framework for the cosmos. Most of these astronomies were practical; they sustained the communities in which they flourished and reflected and reinforced the values of those communities. These astronomical traditions motivated the search for ancient learning that led to the Scientific Renaissance of the twelfth century.

    • Recognizes a variety of astronomical traditions rather than focusing exclusively on geometrical astronomy
    • Includes practical as well as theoretical astronomy
    • Places astronomies in cultural context; considers contributions to religious ritual and status of figures sponsoring astronomical activity
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ' … an interesting read not only to those with an interest in early medieval astronomy, but also to readers with a more general interest in the history of this period … Moreover, the copious footnotes make this book a useful source of reference …'. John Steele, Astronomy Now

    ' … very interesting for all those interested in the history and the development of science and especially astronomy in Europe in the very early stages.' Review of Astronomical Tools

    'Besides providing a novel view of early-medieval astronomical knowledge in the Latin West, McCluskey furnishes a highly successful example of an approach that integrates the history of scientific knowledge with cultural history … McCluskey's study ought to serve as an inspiring exemplar for charting the history of other sorts of scientific knowledge and in other periods.' P. M. Rattansi, The Times Higher Education Supplement

    'McCluskey's survey provides a fine introduction to early medieval astronomy, astrology, and computus … This is not another 'progress of science' treatment of its topic. The book begins before the early Middle Ages, actually in prehistory with solar holizon calendars (perhaps Stonehenge) and in classical antiquity with stellar calendars.' Early Medieval Europe

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2001
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521778527
    • length: 252 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 26 b/w illus. 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Environment for Medieval Astronomies:
    1. Astronomies in cultures
    2. The heritage of astronomical practice
    3. Astronomy and Christian thought
    Part II. The Cultivation of Early Medieval Astronomies:
    4. Continuity and change in solar ritual
    5. Computing the central time - the date of Easter
    6. Observing the Celestial order - monastic timekeeping
    7. Astronomy in the Liberal Arts
    Part III. The Harvest of Medieval Astronomies: 8. The fusion of astronomical traditions
    9. The encounter of Arabic and Latin astronomies
    10. The rebirth of Ptolemaic astronomy

  • Author

    Stephen C. McCluskey, West Virginia University

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