Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

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Arabs, Civilization of the.

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

One of the gravest defects of British and American historical literature is the almost universal reluctance to pay adequate attention to the Arab-Persian civilization. Even in our distinguished Cambridge Mediaeval History only about 100 pages - and it seems that no British scholar could be found to write these - are devoted to the vast and splendid civilization of the Arabs and Persians, while many thousands of pages are given to the far smaller and much less reputable countries of Christian Europe. Yet during the most degraded period of Christendom (c. 900-1050) the Arab civilization spread from Portugal to the confines of India, and it was in some respects superior to the Greek-Roman. Half of Spain under the Arabs then nourished a population of 30,000,000 - it is only 24,000,000 in the entire country to-day - in a condition of high prosperity and enlightenment. Sicily had twice as large a population as England then had, and a wonderful culture, and there were - with periods of reaction, when Moslem fanatics obtained power - equally advanced civilizations in Egypt, Syria, and Persia (which then stretched as far as India). There were hundreds of cities with populations of a quarter of a million to a million (when London, Paris, and Rome had not 30,000), libraries of hundreds of thousands of volumes, a general zeal for education [see Avicenna] and beauty, and a standard of life in all classes far higher than that of Christian countries. Science was cultivated in colleges of university rank and free education, to which even Christian scholars were welcomed, and was carried (as any modern history of science shows - see, especially, Dr. O. Sarton's Introduction to the History of Science (1937), or Dr. H. S. Williams's Story of Modern Science (10 vols., 1923) - far beyond the point at which the Alexandrians had left it. There was an equally voluminous literature of history, philosophy, geography, and poetry. There was very little slavery, while nine-tenths of the people of Christian Europe were in a state of squalid serfdom. In toleration, freedom, social justice, cleanliness, beneficence, and general happiness the Arab-ruled countries were leagues ahead; and the total population of these was many times larger than that of the Christian countries of Europe.
      The reluctance of historians to appreciate this remarkable civilization distorts the whole perspective of the history of Europe and protects the myth that Christianity was at least in large part responsible for its recovery. They continue to pay compliments to the civilizing influence of the Church, allowing only a stimulating contact with the Arabs in the Crusades , and they almost ignore the notable spread of Spanish-Arab culture over the south of France before the First Crusade began and the extension of Sicilian culture to the cities of north Italy. Since Draper drew attention to the truth, in his History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, in 1862, American literature has had only one substantial work on the subject - S. P.Scott's Moorish Empire in Europe (3 vols., 1904) - and, while the works of Muir, Osborn, and Sykes on Moslem Persia are excellent, though outdated, English historical literature has produced only two books in fifty years (S. Lane Poole's Moors in Spain, 1897, and McCabe's Splendour of Moorish Spain, 1935) on the Arab-Spanish culture which really civilized Europe. See also A. Michi, La Science arabe (1938). The Moorish section of L. Bertrand and Sir C. Petrie's History of Spain (1934) is a very inaccurate and ill-informed Catholic tract. Meantime the research of a number of liberal Spanish historians and experts on Arabic-Ballesteros, Ribera, Cordera, etc. - has put the truth beyond question. This conspiracy of silence obscures three profoundly important points in the true philosophy of European history:
      (1) While the barbaric invasions are blamed for the Dark Age, the equally barbaric Arabs created a fine civilization in Syria within half a century of the death of Mohammed, and in less than two centuries they extended it from Spain to Baluchistan.
      (2) In all the finest periods of this Arab civilization (about A.D. 670 to 1300) scepticism was very widespread, especially in the ruling class, while the occasional triumph of fanatics always led to reaction and destruction.
      (3) The superiority of the Arab civilization, especially in Spain and Sicily, was the chief agency which awakened Europe after six centuries of barbarism.


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