God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science
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God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  272 ratings  ·  43 reviews
The adjective 'medieval' is a synonym for superstition and ignorance. Yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution. This title traces the neglected roots of modern science in the medieval world.
Paperback, 435 pages
Published May 7th 2010 (first published 2009)
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God's Philosophers is a well written introduction to medieval natural philosophy. Throughout, Hannam argues that 'science' did not emerge from nowhere with Copernicus or Galileo. Rather, there is a long history of medieval natural philosophy that predates the so-called scientific-revolution and made it possible.

Being something of a fan of medieval philosophy myself, I can't help but endorse Hannam's thesis, not only because I agree with it, but also because it's right (haha).

Something interestin...more
Kate Sherrod
Full review is < Here.

In brief, there is some fascinating information in this book, and the bibliography points to years of more in-depth reading for the type so disposed (I am that type). Hannam has uncovered a myriad of nuggets of knowledge gleaned from thousands of pages of dreary and torturous scholasticism (the practice of laboriously reasoning one's way to artificially reconciling Aristotle et al with Christian doctrine and scripture) that prefigure the scientific discoveries of the Ren...more
It seems that I sometimes have and controversial and nonconformist taste in history books. I don’t generally like tabloid style, sensationalistic controversy for its own sake, especially if this is based on dubious assumptions or modern judgement- but sometimes controversy might spark my interest. One thing that attracted me to this book was the extreme polarization of opinion- the way that historians and interested laypeople seemed to love it, but many with secular humanists hated it. As a stud...more
Ramkumar  R
impartial book on medieval science history. to be precise Hannam is not of the opinion that inquisition had not burned any body(briefly describes heresy of Giordano Bruno who was burned alive for his theory on heavens) )God's philosophers' fails in convincing that natural philosophy of mediveal era contributed to renaissance which is often associated with the beginning of modernity.....For 1000 years (of scientific hibernation ) entire Europe was beleiving and studying aristotle's and palto's c...more
Resistance is Futile
Hannam makes the argument that the development in philosophical thinking and study of the natural world in the middle ages is the cornerstone on which science was built during the later “scientific revolution” and that the role of the Catholic Church and medieval philosophy in the development of science is undervalued today. Hannam is a fantastic writer, in that he provides an engrossing history of the middle ages—especially providing interesting biosketches of the important philosophers of the...more
I've recently finished this book and would like to post my thoughts. I was able to breeze through the book in a relatively short time because I am fascinated with the Middle Ages and the history of science. Hannam is certainly providing a valuable service by offering a counterweight to the irrational denigration of the Middle Ages in popular culture. Certainly, the propagandists throughout history who have distorted the Middle Ages as a time of darkness are being exposed by objective modern hist...more
Courtney Johnston
Hannam's argument is that medieval science - 'natural philosophy' - and its practitioners have been sadly, even criminally overlooked, and his book seeks to bring to the readers attention the developments in scientific understanding over the Middle Ages, and the men who made them (yep, all men, all the time).

As Hannam points out, 'medieval' as a word has connotations of backwards, benighted, superstitious. To generalise, we tend to think (if we think at all about such things) that no science of...more
I really, really enjoyed this book. The fact that it took me so long is not the relevant factor; the fact that I finished it is.
We think of the time between 476 and 1492, give or take a decade, as "not much happened besides the Crusades." Nothing could be further from the truth. This documents how the discipline of natural philosophy--the study of the natural world--became our three main branches of science. Biology, the study of medicine and the body, chemistry and its embarrassing grandfather...more
very readable. i only wish i had it in hard copy so i could throw it at people's heads when they say "dark ages" (hissssss).

probably my favorite bit was "One noted theologian and astrologer, Richard Holcott (d. 1349), had used his art to confidently predict a peaceful death for himself. Maybe, lying in his pallet as the Black Death ravaged his body, he wondered where his calculations had gone wrong." cold as ICE.
Stuart Jennings
A very helpful and readable book that reevaluates the contribution of medieval scholarship to the rise of science and the empirical tradition. Along the way the reader is surprised to discover that the myth of the Dark Ages was just that - a myth. Given the lack of access to Greek texts until the thirteenth century and the firm grip that Aristole had on western thought processes. What emerges as the book progresses is that the enquiring mind always triumphs even in the midst of fear and dogma. W...more
Jason Mascetti
Written from a historical stance, this book lays out how Christianity has influence, and even given birth to modern science.
Mr. Hannam is a Christian apologist, but, having said that, this is a fascinating history of the evolution of science from the Medieval world of Europe and through Early Modern Europe.

It meant for those that have not read widely in Medieval European history and those that have not thought critically about the traditional reading of science history and the Medieval Catholic Church. In many ways it will be an eye-opening experience for the average reader.

The style is accessible but intelligent....more
Gayle Noble
Nov 24, 2013 Gayle Noble rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gayle by: Archaeology, History, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Forensics, Depeche Mode, Supernatural (the TV series), Reading, Academic Study, Playing Tomb Raider games
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting read, debunking some long-standing myths about Church doctrine and science in the Middle Ages such as the fact that the Church did not actually believe the earth was flat and they did not stand in the way of progress as previously believed. I was also interested to read about the origination of the nursery rhyme 'Frere Jacques' which is based on the duty of a particular monk who had the unenviable task of waking at the crack of dawn to sound the monastery bell to call the...more
Manuel B
Believe the author sets up the book to show the contribution of the predecessors of Galileo and how the Middle Ages wasn't a stagnant period in the development of natural philosophy and science.

Though it was mentioned briefly, the problem of indeterminacy and claiming as true theories on the laws of nature when not enough evidence could support it given technological limitations was the main cause of conflict between science and religion in the Middle Ages.

Most fascinating book.
Bas Kreuger
Speaking about changing ones perception............ Reading this book did that for me. I have to admit that I was also under the impression that the Middle Ages were a period of stagnation between the Classical Age and the Rennaissance. Hannams book changed that profoundly, certainly the first part of his book where he speaks about the world view of the scholars in the Middle Ages and the work they did. The second part was a bit tedious and would have benefited from editing by making it more com...more
I liked this book. I'm no expert on the Middle Ages, and I'm afraid I held several stereotypical misconceptions of the period that Hannam artfully demolishes in this very interesting (if you're interested in this sort of thing) read. For example, most educated people in the Middle Ages did not believe the world was flat, and Columbus' sailors did not fear sailing off the edge of the world; the church was not opposed to the advancement of scientific knowledge, as is evidenced by the fact that mos...more
I definitely had a few illusions dispelled about the Medieval world after reading this. I felt it was a good introduction to the subject however it was frustrating sometimes more depth wasn't given to some of the chapters, though I suppose that's what further reading is for. I did enjoy it so gave it a good rating.
Michael Scott
In case you have read both: compare this book with David Lindberg 's The Beginnings of Western Science? Lindberg's book was written in 1992 (2nd edition 2007), so earlier, and seems to argue about the same issues with the same arguments. Ironic how history seems to repeat itself...
The Spectator's review is pretty accurate. Hannam's background as a physicist, I think, gave the historical period's pursuit of logic and mathematics an emphasis that a historian without that background might have over looked. (Though,I can't help feeling he glossed over some of the less savory aspects of the Catholic church in order to strengthen his point-- that the Catholic church contributed more to natural philosophy and, eventually, what we now consider science.) I enjoyed his presentation...more
John Martindale
This book doesn't seem to be written by some right-wing evangelical with an axe to grind, but rather a historian who wants the truth to be known concerning the period of history that has gotten a very bad rap.. Hannam shared many of the advances in natural philosophy during the middle ages and the metaphysics that inspired it and showed how this laid the necessary ground work for modern science. The book is well-written and balanced, shattering several myths and including the good, bad and the u...more
Kip Lowery
Very interesting and readable history of the natural philosophers and "scientists" of medieval period. This well-researched book easily dispels the myth that the church suppressed knowledge and inquiry, but was birthed and raised in the church and church founded universities. Christian philosophers there learned to deal with insights and errors of the Greek philosophers and build upon them. The book climaxes with the achievements of Galileo, showing how essential the medieval period was to the d...more
I have to admit to a personal failing. Science has never interested me. A ptarmigan is merely a ptarmigan to me. The periodic table of elements, I can take or leave. I admire wasps, but only at arms' length. As a child, science textbooks filled me with an impulsive desire to go and read a history book or something.

That's why James Hannam's book 'God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations for Modern Science' would have been perfect for me. Science in a cotehardie! I'm there.

Terry Tschann Skelton
I learned a lot, but also already knew a lot, but he put some things together for me.
insight of how light the dark ages really were.
Russell Ince

Does exactly what it says on the tin, very convincing argument, although maybe it could've done with a chapter entitled 'OK, so here's where Christianity did prevent intellectual progress a bit'. There are moments in the text when this is briefly acknowledged but I think the book's central premise would've only been strengthened had the other side of the argument been explored and debunked more consistently.

Whilst I would agree with much of what is said, the book has an obvious Christian apologi...more
Jack Getz
Ten stars anyone? A detailed history exposing the many myths about the "Dark Ages". Hint: they weren't dark at all for Christian scholars. The trial of Galileo didn't really happen the way we have been told by our secular teachers. Mind boggling in its research and conclusions. Much if what science holds today as sacred was born in this era, and Christian scholars paved the road for what we now believe. Oh, the Inquisition wasn't what Hollywood portrays it to have been either.
Sorry Mel Brooks.....more
I've not starred this book, because I didn't finish it.

Not only that, but I got barely any way in at all - something which is distinctly unusual for me.

Why? I simply couldn't get into it. And I think part of the problem was that it came across very strongly, and right from the start, as being apologist for the Catholic Church, an institution about which I have rather strong and set views*.

*Yup, I'm admitting bias here. It's perfectly likely the book is fantastic :)
Kevin Goldsmith
A book with such rich subject potential came across as boring. I was relieved to be through with it. Also, I'm getting annoyed at books that say "Christian" yet do not make clear in their product description whether or not it is Catholic or Protestant. As a Protestant, this is the second book I have received that is Catholic which makes no mention of it (the other being "Victory of Reason" which was better than this).
Dec 27, 2011 Melinda is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I've read about 20% of this book, and am really enjoying it. It's an interesting read, and gives a lot of information about how science developed during the Middle Ages in Europe, as well as why modern historians forgot there was any such development for many years.

The only caveat I have is that there is a bit of description of some people's immorality, not in a tabloid format but with some historical details.
Daniel Wright
Bring all your illusions and delusions, all your preconceptions and misconceptions, all your ignorances and presumptions associated with the intellectual world of the middle ages, bring them all to Dr James Hannam and let him methodically demolish them, with the careful precision of a scholar. I have perhaps never read a more eye-opening book.
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Meet James Hannam in London 23 Sep 2014 2 5 Aug 30, 2014 12:05PM  
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Dr James Hannam is a British historian of science who lives in Kent with his wife and two children. James majored in Physics at Oxford and has a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge.

His articles have boon published in magazines such as The Spectator, New Scientist, Standpoint and First Things.
More about James Hannam...
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“Popular opinion, journalistic cliché and misinformed historians notwithstanding, recent research has shown that the Middle Ages was a period of enormous advances in science, technology and culture.” 0 likes
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