We tend to think of multiculturalism as being very modern, but it’s not.

Chris Mitchell, Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 7:00pm, on ZOOM

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Step back 1800 years to Roman Leicester and you’d have bumped into Africans, Jews, Syrians, Spaniards and Germans in the market, and in the Roman army garrisoned in most cities. Go back 850 years or so and you find Henry II, as a young prince, sometimes in France, sometimes in England, and being taught by an English teacher who himself ventured to Syria to learn Arabic, and stayed there seven years. Other Christian scholars headed down to Islamic Spain to share knowledge with Jews and Arabs there, and the Spanish-born rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra travelled across Europe and the Middle East, visiting Italy and Baghdad before deciding to settle down in London in the 1150s. Medieval Europe was more of a melting pot than most people realise, and this cultural mixing led to an explosion of new ideas in the twelfth century, sometimes dubbed “the 12th-century renaissance” that is often completely overlooked.

The featured image is an illustration of Ibn Ezra (center) making use of an astrolabe.