by Martin Bernal
What is classical about Classical civilization? In one of the most audacious works of scholarship ever written, Martin Bernal challenges the whole basis of our thinking about this question. Classical civilization, he argues, has deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures. But these Afroasiatic influences have been systematically ignored, denied or suppressed since the eighteenth chiefly for racist reasons.
The popular view is that Greek civilization was the result of the conquest of a sophisticated but weak native population by vigorous Indo-European speakers- or Aryans- from the North. But the Classical Greeks, Bernal argues, knew nothing of this "Aryan Model." They did not see their political institutions, science, philosophy, or religion as original, but rather as derived from the East in general, and Egypt in particular.
Black Athena is projected to be a four-volume work. Volume 1 concentrates on the crucial period between 1785 and 1850, which saw both the Romantic and racist reaction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and the consolidation of Northern expansion into other continents. In an unprecedented tour de force, Bernal makes meaningful links between a wide range of areas and philosophy, biography, language, historical narrative, and the emergence of "modern scholarship."
The Observer - Margaret Drabble:
A work which has much to offer the lay reader, and its multi-disciplinary sweep is refreshing: it is an important contribution to his to historiography and the sociology of knowledge, written with elegance, wit, and self-awareness... a thrilling journey... his account is as gripping a tale of scholarly detection and discovery as one could hope to find