Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam
AbstractThis research examines the economic origins and spread of Islam in the Old World and uncovers two empirical regularities. First, Muslim countries and ethnic groups exhibit highly unequal regional agricultural endowments. Second, Muslim adherence is systematically higher along the pre-Islamic trade routes. We discuss the possible mechanisms that may give rise to the observed pattern and provide a simple theoretical argument that highlights the interplay between an unequal geography and proximity to lucrative trade routes. We argue that these elements exacerbated inequalities across diverse tribal societies producing a conflictual environment that had the potential to disrupt trade flows. Any credible movement attempting to centralize these heterogeneous populations had to offer moral and economic rules addressing the underlying economic inequalities. Islam was such a movement. In line with this conjecture, we utilize anthropological information on precolonial traits of African ethnicities and show that Muslim groups have distinct economic, political, and societal arrangements featuring a subsistence pattern skewed towards animal husbandry, more equitable inheritance rules, and more politically centralized societies with a strong belief in a moralizing God.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2012-12.
Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912
Religion; Islam; Geography; Redistribution; Land Inequality; Africa; Wealth Inequality; Trade.;
Other versions of this item:
- Stelios Michalopoulos & Alireza Naghavi & Giovanni Prarolo, 2012. "Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam," NBER Working Papers 18438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- N0 - Economic History - - General
- N27 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Africa; Oceania
- N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
- O0 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - General
- O1 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
- O43 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
- Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General
- Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Jean-Philippe Platteau, 2008.
"Religion, Politics, and Development: Lessons from the Lands of Islam,"
434, Economic Research Forum, revised Sep 2008.
- Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2008. "Religion, politics, and development: Lessons from the lands of Islam," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 329-351, November.
- Binzel, Christine & Carvalho, Jean-Paul, 2013. "Education, Social Mobility and Religious Movements: A Theory of the Islamic Revival in Egypt," IZA Discussion Papers 7259, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Boris Gershman, 2013. "The Economic Origins of the Evil Eye Belief," Working Papers 2013-14, American University, Department of Economics.
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