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Trade and Geography in the Economic Origins and Spread of Islam: Theory and Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Stelios Michalopoulos

    () (Tufts University)

  • Alireza Naghavi

    () (University of Bologna and FEEM)

  • Giovanni Prarolo

    () (University of Bologna)

Abstract

This research examines the economic origins and spread of Islam and uncovers two empirical regularities. First, Muslim countries, virtual countries and ethnic groups, exhibit highly unequal regional agricultural endowments. Second, Muslim adherence is systematically larger along the pre- Islamic trade routes in the Old World. The theory argues that this particular type of geography (i) determined the economic aspects of the religious doctrine upon which Islam was formed, and (ii) shaped its subsequent economic performance. It suggests that the unequal distribution of land endowments conferred differential gains from trade across regions, fostering predatory behavior from the poorly endowed ones. In such an environment it was mutually beneficial to institute an economic system featuring direct income transfers and restrictions on physical capital accumulation. The latter rendered the investments on public goods, through religious endowments, increasingly attractive. As a result, capital accumulation remained low and wealth inequality bounded. Geography and trade shaped the set of economically relevant religious principles of Islam affecting its economic trajectory in the preindustrial world.

Suggested Citation

  • Stelios Michalopoulos & Alireza Naghavi & Giovanni Prarolo, 2009. "Trade and Geography in the Economic Origins and Spread of Islam: Theory and Evidence," Economics Working Papers 0096, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science, revised May 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:ads:wpaper:0096
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    Keywords

    Religion; Islam; Geography; Physical Capital; Human Capital; Land Inequality; Wealth Inequality; Trade;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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