In its Golden Age, ten times more people lived in Baghdad than in London. So what was so special about it? And how can we possibly know? Pupils work on text, images and objects to analyse what made early Islamic life so sophisticated compared to Britain at the time. They start by looking at the importance of trade, then mine images for meaning and end by thinking creatively about objects’ possible use by playing Call My Bluff.

Learning objectives

  • Pupils understand at least 3 reasons why Baghdad was thought to be so special;
  • they develop the ability to make inferences from visual sources;
  • they think creatively about possible uses objects that were typical of the time;
  • the more able can make strong connections between the civilizations of Saxon Britain and early Islam.

Step 1

Start by reading together the comments made about Baghdad by a traveller from the time (slide 2). Stop at line 4. Ask the pupils to quickly think of any 3 POSSIBLE reasons why Baghdad would have impressed this traveller. Now reveal the rest of his text. Stress the idea of the city being a centre for different cultures, largely due to the volume of trade it

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