Log in

No account? Create an account


Recent Entries

You are viewing the most recent 10 entries

July 1st, 2009

01:02 am: Research tangent: What was the biggest university in 1191?

I've gone and got obsessed about a piece of trivia. Having taken this as far as I can, thanks to the wonders of the interweb I can inflict this on you all and hope, through some random fluke, some academic will one day answer my questions. (Perhaps they have a google alert set up for medieval universities. Perhaps I'll end up with a thriving argument between Angkorian archeologists and Baghdadi bibliophiles. Or perhaps this post will just sit here until the end of time.)

But if this questions gets answered, I'll edit the relevant Wikipedia entries. I promise.

My tour guide told me that Preah Khan, a Buddhist university complex built on a battlefield and dedicated in 1191, was the biggest university of its day. I instinctively doubted this, thinking the medieval western universities were just getting going around then. As you'll read, Europe was an intellectual also-ran at the time, and if Preah Khan had any rivals, they certainly weren't writing things down in Latin and waving papal dispensations.

This what I found:


University of Paris

Bologna, Oxford, and Modena were also around at the time, but are unlikely to be much bigger than Paris.


I cannot find how big they were.

  • Guozijian, aka the Chinese Imperial Central School

  • Hanlin


Nalanda University

Islamic World


  • Al-Nizamiyya of Baghdad (the most reknowned Nizamiyya at this time, established 1065)

  • Education was subsidised, sometimes even with free lodging and food

  • Best reference would be G. Makdisi, "Muslim Institutions of Learning in Eleventh Century Baghdad", BSOAS, XXIV(1961), 55, reprinted in his Religion, Law and Learning in Classical ...

  • Or Nakosteen, Mehdi (1964) History of Islamic Origins of Western Education A.D. 1800-1350: with an Introduction to Medieval Muslim Education, Boulder: University of Colorado Press.

I don't suppose anyone has those?

An article in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs allegedly claims it was the biggest medieval university - but you need to pay to access the article and the title (the only bit I know) does not seem to have anything to do with history

Taken as a whole, Baghdad fans such as Salah Zaimeche claim that the city had a million people and international scholarly fame. Did all the Baghdad (city, place of learning, and imperial capital) have more students and lecturers spread through its many schools, madrassas, and hospitals than Preah Khan (city and university, ten times smaller)? I have no idea, and it anyway shifts the question.

Al-Azhar in Cairo

According to a Saudi article called Steeped in Glory, Al-Azhar had several hundred professors by the turn of the second millenium (of the common era) - and nearly 5000 students. I would assume that the article is, despite its title, meticulously balanced, but it does not have references. So did Al-Azhar have 1000 lecturers by 1191?



Preah Khan

  • 56 hectares

  • Over 1000 teachers, says "Ancient Ankor" (Michael Freeman, Claude Jacques, River Books, Thailand, 2003)

  • nearly 100,000 people in the city as a whole, says Wikipedia (fully cited, not that I am going to check the citation)


May 11th, 2009

12:58 pm: Synchronising iPhone and Thunderbird: the lost weekend
Now I have an iPhone, I am going to neatly integrate everything. My calendar, email and address book will be the same whether I am making a phone call, writing email on my desktop, or using webmail.


I spent most of this weekend working out how to do this. By the end of Sunday, I did not have everything integrated, but after taking this advice all my email had disappeared. (I have it back now - it was just an error in a configuration file.)

Just in case it comes in useful, perhaps because someone has the exact same problems, I will record the details. It was not even interesting to me, so I hold out no hope of it being interesting to anyone else.

Why not Google or Yahoo?Collapse )



Making Thunderbird and Windows use the same Address BookCollapse )

Importing the Address Book from PalmCollapse )




Tags: ,

April 7th, 2009

03:47 pm: The journey, mapped and photographed

I have made a google map of my path from Dubai, through SE Asia, and back via Kuala Lumpur. The markers link through to photographs.

Please follow the link to the full map.


March 30th, 2009

06:02 am: And I'm home ...
I took a flight to Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Being a cheap out-of-town airport, it was actually in Sepang, 70km from KL. Air Asia played a loop of three songs and one advert and call it "360 FM". After the truly spectacular Batu caves, some food shopping, lots of time on buses, and a vegan restaurant I randomly stumbled across doing traditional Malay cooking I took a 70km taxi ride to my hotel.

Then I flew home ... making Saturday a 32-hour day for me. The population of the UK switched timezones on Sunday morning in order to reduce my jetlag by one hour, which was nice of them. Thank you, Britain :).

My flight back went over India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Caspian sea. Being a cheap £235 Air Asia flight, there was no display to say where exactly you were, so if I wanted to know what the spectacular view out of the window was I had to ask a crewmember. A knowledgeable member of crew (perhaps the copilot) told us when were over Lankawi Island, off the west coast of Malaysia (one of the places I skipped, so was really good to see). Which meant I saw Penang from the air as well as from the ground. A less knowledgeable member of crew later told me we were probably over the United Arab Emirates (which was not on our flight path). I would loved to have been able to tell one brown arid country with patches of villages and cultivation for another: I think I'll need to trace my route on Google Earth to do that.

And so I'm home, looking forward to seeing my UK friends in real life again. But that's not quite the end of the travel blogging: I have many photos to post and link to.

Tags: ,

March 25th, 2009

09:59 pm: Dangerous Things
When I'm in a hotel without internet access, and have a hectic schedule of temples to keep up, I neglect the blog. It's a tough life, climbing up down and over medieval Ankor temples.

Yesterday I cycled around some of the temples. The problem is that the Khmer seem happy to cycle around on unlit roads on bicycles without lights. I wanted to see the sun rise over Ankor Wat, so I needed to cycle before the sun rose. In the tropics, the sky is dark 30 minutes before dawn. It took ages to find somewhere that rented bikes with as much as a dynamo light. There seems to be no such thing as reflective strips in Cambodia either. (I can appreciate being too poor for lights, but who is too poor for an ugly orange reflective vest, and yet can afford a bike?). So I set off at 5am, trusting to my dynamo light and a white shirt I had bought in Chiang Mai.

The dynamo light flickered on and off.

The dawn was spectacular. The day after equinox, the sun rises a little to the north of due east. From where I sat, the sun followed the curve of the central Ankor Wat tower as it rose, finally revealing itself just above the central tower.

I spent a long day cycling around temples and taking my time exploring them. Imagine cycling through ancient gopura, under massive serene heads, and stopping in front of deserted temples. Then parking the bike to clamber up vast mountain-shaped temples with signs on them saying "Climb at your own risk". There will be photos later.

I got distracted by a large monastery and set off home during dusk - and only then did I find that the dynamo would not connect with the wheel. Ten minutes later, it was pitch black. Five minutes after that, the road was unlit.

Perhaps because of all this, the Siem Reap traffic does not move too quickly. I even passed some motorbikes. Because of this, cycling around felt pretty safe. Except for the bit in pitch black without street lights.

Another cyclist came to my rescue. He had improvised white lights (yes, should be red) on the back of his rucsac. So I shamelessly put myself in front of him - anyone about to run me over would hopefully see his lights first.

So yes - I am back in Siem Reap safely, after three days of temples. The journey home begins on Friday.

March 20th, 2009

01:28 pm: Changing plans in Chaing Mai
On Tuessday, I was mostly fine until about an hour after dinner. Then I started shivering, my temnperature shot up, and went to bed.

On Wednesday, I woke up fine but tired ... and not very keen on spending seven hours bouncing up and down on the unsealed Cambodian road to Siem Reap - at that point I thought I might still have an iffy stomach on Sunday. So I am breaking with my ambition to not fly between going to Singapore and going home. I am going to take a short-haul flight on Sunday, to get me from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

This also means I don't need the Malarone after all that. Does anyone need Malarone?

Meanwhile, I've had time to get massaged, meet the monks, fly through the primary forest on a zipwire, and a cookery lesson. Very usual stuff for Chaing Mai. Plus, there is a place with flavours of vegan ice-cream previously unknown to any ice cream vendor, vegan or otherwise.

It's a sunny Friday in Chaing Mai - finishing off a sandwich in a juice bar before going to see a Temple on a hill. I'm now almost entirely better, though I do have a bit of a cough.

March 17th, 2009

06:02 pm: Am feeling a bit better now
(In response to another concerned email. Which I do appreciate. It's nice to know that folk care. Actually, it's nice to know that anyone is reading this ...)

March 16th, 2009

10:15 pm: Why I do not think I am dying any more than usual
A friend just sent a concerned email and text pointing out that Malaria often starts with a cold. When I looked up the symptoms for both Malaria and Dengue Fever, a headache was almost the first symptom mentioned for both. I do not have a headache. In fact, I have very little pain. I'm just very tired, and have lost most of my appetite.

I also have not been anywhere with a high Malaria risk, but have been exposed to Dengue Fever quite a bit.

For anyone tracking my shifting moral calculus, I just killed a mosquito.

10:44 am: Elephant Nature Park (is amazing, but has no internet access)
I just spent a week at the Elephant Nature park - the one that rescues elephants from trekking companies. I spent the week bathing and feeding them, as well as doing lots of chores.

On Saturday we went to "Haven" with four elephants, to give those elephants a chance to roam properly in a wide expanse of forest. (The ENP proper is fairly big, but is marsh and scrub.) There was music from the mahouts, and campfire chat.

On the way back some trekking elephants ambled past us. One of the trekker company Mahouts was kicking the elephant's head repeatedly. All carried sticks with big hooks on the end for disciplining the elephant. Most of their elephants were carrying tourists.

I am now back in Chaing Mai (which is why I have internet access!), and am considering staying here for several days instead of exploring more of Thailand. I am a bit ill - a slight cold I was nursing at ENP turned into something much worse as soon as I got back - so it is a good point to relax, and a bad point to pack bags and move every day.

I'll just head off and book a hostel ...

Powered by LiveJournal.com