In this age of fear and loathing of jihad, the dhimmi revises history, writes books about Islam without mentioning jihad and dhimmitude. That's like doing an Anna Nicole Smith bio without the drugs.
Fjordman writes a brief review of such stunning dhimmitude -- “The House of Wisdom” by Jonathan Lyon -- over at Gates of Vienna:
I have read both of them, and Freely’s book is the best of the two, or the least bad, since he at a minimum has some understanding of the history of science, which Mr. Lyons in my view does not. That doesn’t mean that I would recommend buying his book; there are better and more balanced titles available on the market. Stephen O’Shea in his very positive review claims that “Dust will never gather on Jonathan Lyons’ lively new book of medieval history.” I strongly disagree. I consider The House of Wisdom to be a bad case of poor scholarship.
Lyons’ book is 200 pages long, Freely’s Aladdin’s Lamp 255 pages. Neither of them mentions the terms ‘Jihad’ or ‘dhimmi’ even once in their books about Islamic culture. This says a great deal about the current intellectual climate. I didn’t notice these words while reading the books and they are not listed in the indexes. The authors certainly don’t devote much time to debating the violent aspects of Islamic expansionism through the Islamically unique institution of Jihad, or the fates of the conquered peoples. Is it a coincidence that whatever useful work that was done in the Islamic world happened during the first centuries of the Islamic era, while there were still large numbers of non-Muslims living in the region? We don’t know because the question is never debated by these authors, but it deserves to be.
Muslims clearly owe vastly more of science and technology to Westerners than we owe to them. Perhaps it’s time they start repaying their debt to us, not vice versa. I’m not suggesting that there was no good scholarly work done in the Islamic world. There are a few Muslim scholars from the medieval period whom I respect. Their contributions should not be ignored, but nor should they be inflated beyond all proportions, as Lyons does. If the Western scientific and technological contribution to the world is the size of an elephant then the Muslim one is the size of a squirrel, or a Chihuahua at best. There’s no shame in that. I like squirrels, but I would never confuse one with an elephant.
I will conclude by recommending some serious books which people can read instead of The House of Wisdom or Aladdin’s Lamp. About Islam I recommend essentially everything written by Robert Spencer. Bat Ye’or’s books are groundbreaking and important, though admittedly not always easy to read. The Legacy of Jihad by Andrew Bostom should be considered required reading for all those interested in Islam. It is the best and most complete book available on the subject in English, and possibly in any language. Ibn Warraq’s books are excellent, starting with his Defending the West . Understanding Muhammad by the Iranian ex-Muslim Ali Sina is also worth reading, as is Defeating Jihad by Serge Trifkovic.
If you are looking for books about the history of science, I recommend everything written by Edward Grant. The Beginnings of Western Science by David C. Lindberg is very good, though slightly more politically correct than Grant when it comes to science in the Islamic world. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West by Toby E. Huff is excellent and highly recommended. These books are easy to read for an educated, mainstream audience.
For books that are excellent, yet more specialized and slightly more difficult, I can recommend Victor J. Katz for the history of mathematics and The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy by James Evans for the history of pre-telescopic astronomy up to and including Kepler. Evans’ book is extremely well researched and detailed, almost too much so on European and Middle Eastern astronomy, but contains virtually nothing on Chinese or Mayan astronomy. For a more global perspective, Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology by John North is good and not too difficult to read.