The Age of Decline: 600 - 1100

This was the age when Islam, from the death of Mohammed, came to dominance and served as a means of preserving the classical learning, and advancing it in various ways. In Europe missionaries were spreading Christianity to its outer regions like Britain. Christian rulers like Charlemagne supported learning. At the same time there were important technological developments in China. An age of transition, part of the Dark Ages.

"The concept embodied in the term "Dark Ages", however, has some validity. The period from the fifth to the eighth century witnessed a marked decline in intellectual activity, and a falling off of standards in sanitation, water supply, communications and domestic comfort. The obscurity of the period is a serious drawback for historians, since the lack of written records means that for most subjects the only evidence comes from scanty archaeological findings. In the Byzantine and Iranian Empires, in this period, civilisation remained at a high level, but written evidence from these two cultures is very sparse." [Donald Hill, A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times, 1984, p.2.]

Colour coding: red = mathematics, astronomy, physics orange = materials, chemistry, geology, engineering, architecture yellow = biology, medicine, exploration, anthropology, psychology green = visual art, printing blue = literature, poetry, music mauve = history, philosophy, metaphysics, theology grey = wars, politics, events (indented)


600 Uncial lettering, 589-617AD China: Sui dynasty calligraphy.

618: Tang dynasty in China (to 907)

632: Death of Mohammed. Islamic empire begins to expand.

639: N Africa conquered by Muslims.

642: Arabs conquer Persia, overthrow Sassanians.


650: All polynesian islands now colonised except New Zealand

661 - 750: Umayyad dynasty rules Islamic empire

Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury 675, missionary to SW England (Devon Dorset, Sonerset, Wessex) based at Sherborne, wrote in Latin, De Laude Virginitate, d.c.710.

673 - 735 The Venerable) Bede & & monk and historian, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.


700: Anasazi people build pueblos in SW USA.
N. Africa now all part of Islamic empire.
Kingdom of Ghana expands due to trade across the Sahara.
Half uncials.

8th century (701-800) the Islamic Caliphate of Arabia (ruling from Spain to Iran) and China's Tang dynasty (ruling from Xinjiang to Dalian) fought for decades for control of Central Asia.

711: Spain invaded by Muslims from North Africa.

712 - 775 Abu Jafar al Mansur & Caliph 754, founded Baghdad 764.

735 - 804 Alcuin aka Ealhwine (Anglo-Saxon), Albinus (Latin), educationist, calligrapher, theologian. Studied at the episcopal school in York, becoming its head in 778. Met Charlemagne in 781 at Parma in Italy and became head of the palace school at Aachen. 790-2 Renegotiated the peace between Charlemagne and Offa. Reformed the education system in France and throughout the Holy Roman empire. Retired to be Abbot of Tours in 796.

742 - 814 Charlemagne & & &.


750 - 1250: Muslim invasions into India and collapse of Hindu kingdoms.
750 - 887: Carolingian dynasty dominates NW Europe.

c.750 "A Persian astronomer Mohammad al-Fazari &, and his father Ibrahim, investigated the plane astrolabe, and built an example, an astronomical instrument and analog computer that was important in locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, Planets and stars." [But see Antikythera Mechanism −125].

756: Islamic empire starts to break up???.
762: Foundation of Baghdad.

763 or 766? - 809 Harun al Rashid & & & & & fifth Caliph.

c.780 - c.850 Al Khwarizmi mathematician, from whose name we derive the term "algorithm", and from the title of whose main work we derive the word "algebra".

786 - 833 Abu Jafar al Mamun Caliph 813, established a university at which many Muslim scholars worked.


800: First use of bow and arrow in Mississippi valley.

dates?? al Kindi & & & mathematician, maintained that space and time must be finite, since infinity leads to paradoxes.

840 China: paper money invented.


848 - 899 Alfred + + King of Wessex, also known as Alfred the Great and considered the first King of England. Translated: Cura Pastoralis by Gregory the Great a manual of instruction for clergy. Historia Adversus Pagonos by Paulus Orosius, a textbook of universal history. A version of De Consolatione Philosophiae by Boethius, and of the Soliloquiae by Augustine of Hippo. He also supported the translation of a shortened version of Bede's Historia and may have helped plan the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles which bagan during his reign

d.c.910 Asser, a Welsh monk, friend, teacher adn advisor of King Alfred from 887. Wrote De Rebus Gestis Aelfredi Magni, a biography of Alfred up to 887.

853 - 929 al-Battani aka Albategnius + +, astronomer who calculated accurate values for the length of the year, precession of equinoxes, and inclination of Earth's axis, his work is cited by Copernicus.

868: China: Wang Jie + +, publisher of the Diamond Sutra, earliest dated printed book (actually a scroll, printed in 7 parts from carved wooden blocks).

c.870 - c.950 al Farabi + musician and philosopher.

880 - 946 as Suli + shatranj (chess) expert, solved the knight's tour + problem.


900: Decline of Maya civilisation: Toltecs control most of Central America.

906 - 960 China: Five dynasties.

910 - 1171: Fatimid dynasty, conquer Egypt 969.

918: Koryo dynasty in Korea (to 1392)

c.935 - c.1010 Aelfric, known as Grammaticus, studied with the Benedictine order at Winchester. Taught at Cerne Abbey. Translated Bede's de Temporibus. Wrote a Grammar, Glossary and Colloquy for teaching Latin. The latter consists of dialogues between teacher and pupils, who adopt the characters of working people and describe their lives, thus giving a picture of everyday life. Became Abbot of Eynsham.

c.940 - c.1000 Ibn Sahl +. First to publish the accurate law of refraction of light in On Burning Mirrors and Lenses 984, which he used to derive lens shapes to avoid distortion.


c.950 - 1009 Ibn Yunus + astronomer al-Zij al-Hakimi al-Kabir + (Astronomical Handbook) and Kitab ghayat al-intifa' (Book of Useful Tables).

962 - 1186: Ghaznevid dynasty (??)

965 - 1040 al Haitham + + + + + + + aka Alhazen, physicist who studied light and vision Kitab-al-Manadhir + (Book of Optics).

980 - 1037 Ibn Sina + aka Avicenna, physician and philosopher.

c.995 - c.1033 Guido d'Arezzo, Italy 1030, Micrologos, pioneered improved music notation, including "sol-fa" naming the notes of the scale with syllables from plainchant, and use of a parallel lines forming a "stave".


1000: Japan: Sei Shonagon, lady in waiting to Emperor Sadako, starts to compile her Pillow Book diary with observations of contemporary life.

1,000: Leif Eriksson reaches North America
1,000: Easter Island statues start to be made. New Zealand settled by Polynesians.

1022: Japan: Lady Murasaki writes novel The Tale of Genji.

1027 - 1087 William of Normandy, 'the Conqueror', leads Norman invasion of England 1066, Domesday Book compiled 1086.

1,028: Canute, extends rule from Denmark and England to Norway.

1033 - 1109 Anselm + + theologian known for ontological proof of god.

1041 China: Bi Sheng + + Printing with moveable clay type.

c.1048 - c.1122 Omar Khayyam + + + Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet, The Rubaiyat + +.


1054 Crab supernova + + + Chinese and American Indian astronomers observe the Crab supernova explosion which formed the Crab nebula.

1054: The East-West Schism +: Formal division of Christianity into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches. These later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

1055 - 1200: North Africa dominated by Almoravids then Almohads (??)

1058 - 1111 al Ghazali + theologian, Deliverance from Error +, The Incoherence of the Philosophers + +.

1066: Norman invasion of England, Battle of Hastings, William Duke of Normandy defeats King Harold.

b.1071 Guillaume, Count of Poitiers, the first troubadour whose songs survive.

1075 - 1160 Adelard of Bath + + traveller and scholar, translated a work of al Khwarismi, and an edition of Euclid, into Latin.

1079 - 1142 Peter Abelard + + + + philosopher, Historia Calamitatum + autobiography, Logica and Dialectica +.

1190: Mongol conquests begin.

1090 - 1153 Bernard of Clairvaux + + founder of Cistercian order, prosecuted Abelard for heresy, preached the second crusade.

1093 - 1167 Abraham ibn Ezra + Hebrew writer on grammar, astrology and biblical criticism.

1095 - 1291: Crusades. The first Crusade captured Jerusalem 1,099.

1098 - 1179 Hildegard of Bingen, poet and composer.


1100 In the late 1st millennium and early 2nd millennium, the Arabs dominated the trade routes in the Indian Ocean, East Asia, and the Sahara; Arabs and Jews dominated trade in the Mediterranean. ??