One of the standard paradigms of modern Western culture is that the Middle Ages were a dark, primitive time. While that’s true for the era between Rome’s fall and about 1,000 A.D., after 1,000 A.D. Europe enjoyed an explosive, intellectually vibrant time. (To understand the groundwork for this intellectual explosion, I highly recommend Thomas Cahill’s completely delightful How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, which tells how Irish monks, by preserving and spreading Christianity, set the West on its path to modernity.)
Recognizing that the Middle Ages were a splendid, dynamic isn’t just a matter of setting the historical record straight. Every PC-educated school child will tell you that Islam is good because, during the Middle Ages, when the West was mired in filth and ignorance, the Islamic world was a paradise of tolerance, beauty and learning. I’m not going to denigrate the medieval Islamic world. Certain parts of the medieval Islamic world were indeed places were Jews and Christians, although second class citizens, were able to thrive intellectually and economically; the art and architecture were beautiful (one word: Alhambra); and the culture was sophisticated and rich. The medieval Muslim world should be accorded recognition for its achievements.
The problem is that PC education, to ensure Islam its proper place in the scheme of things, then dishonestly paints the Middle Ages as a primitive, ugly, antisemitic, misanthropic world. This is true, but such a fragmented part of the truth that it distorts the whole. The fact is that medieval Europe was different from, but just as bad as — and just as good as — medieval Islam. Both were worlds of explosive intellectual growth, celebrations of God and nature, travel and conquest, artistic beauty, misogyny and antisemitism, religious bullying, and all the other stuff that makes medieval cultures fascinating and frustrating, enticing and off-putting. The crucial difference is that the European Middle Ages were a springboard, whereas the Islamic Middle Ages were an apex.
With that as a brief and scrambled intro, you might enjoy this short video about the brilliant Middle Ages.