Source: Emory University
The Book of the Categories of Peoples, written in the eleventh century in what is now Spain focuses on the contributions various “nations” or peoples have made to human knowledge, particularly mathematics and the sciences. It is an important source for several reasons. It gives us a vivid picture of what one Arab, Muslim author from this time period understood about the inhabited world and the development of the sciences by various historical and contemporary peoples. It also provides crucial information about the transmission of this knowledge from one culture to another, about the translation of books from Sanskrit, Persian, and Greek into Arabic, about the usage and influence of works which are now lost, supplementing information available from extant translations, other scientific works, and other descriptive works like the Catalogue of Ibn al-Nadim (987 C.E.). In addition, the work is interesting for providing a snapshot of the intellectual environment in Muslim Spain just before the great period of translation from Arabic into Latin and Spanish, the center of which would be Toledo in the twelfth century C.E.