In Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World
(Princeton University Press, 2012), Christopher I. Beckwith
gives us a rare window into the global movements of medieval science. Science can be characterized not by its content, but instead by its methodology. Starting from this premise, Beckwith focuses on a crucial part of this methodology, the recursive argument method. Developed among Central Asian Buddhist scholars, the recursive method was transmitted along with other core elements of medieval science (including the institution of the college) to Muslims in Central Asia, and from there to medieval Western Europe. Beckwith's analysis of this transformation is based on a deep knowledge of disputational texts in many languages, and integrates archaeological evidence in a compelling account of the spatial and institutional relationships of the college, the European cloister, the Islamic madrasa, and the Central Asian vihara. The story of Warriors of the Cloisters
ranges widely across India, Tibet, China, and Greco-Roman antiquity, while focusing on a Central Asian context that has largely been absent from global histories of science. It is an important contribution to what will hopefully become an emerging new field of scholarship on Central Asian science, medicine, and technology. Enjoy!