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Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam

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Abstract

This 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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  • Stelios Michalopoulos & Alireza Naghavi & Giovanni Prarolo, 2012. "Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam," Working Papers 2012-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2012-12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Boris Gershman, 2016. "Long-Run Development and the New Cultural Economics," Working Papers 2016-06, American University, Department of Economics.
    2. repec:kap:copoec:v:29:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10602-017-9247-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Naghavi, Alireza & Prarolo, Giovanni, 2016. "Islam, inequality and pre-industrial comparative development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 86-98.
    4. Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 151-213.
    5. Depetris-Chauvin, Emilio & Özak, Ömer, 2015. "Population Diversity, Division of Labor and the Emergence of Trade and State," MPRA Paper 69565, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Emilio Depetris-Chauvin & Ömer Özak, 2016. "Population Diversity, Division of Labor and Comparative Development," Departmental Working Papers 1605, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.
    7. 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).
    8. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
    9. Gershman, Boris, 2015. "The economic origins of the evil eye belief," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 119-144.
    10. Jonathan F. Schulz, 2016. "The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-networks and Democracy," Discussion Papers 2016-16, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    11. McAdam, Peter & Christopoulos, Dimitris, 2015. "Efficiency, Inefficiency and the MENA Frontier," Working Paper Series 1757, European Central Bank.
    12. Augenblick, Ned & Cunha, Jesse M. & Dal Bó, Ernesto & Rao, Justin M., 2016. "The economics of faith: using an apocalyptic prophecy to elicit religious beliefs in the field," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 38-49.
    13. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "On the Ethnic Origins of African Development Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization," NBER Working Papers 20513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Paolo Buonanno & Ruben Durante & Giovanni Prarolo & Giovanni Prarolo, 2013. "Rich Mines, Poor Institutions: Resource Curse and the Origins of the Sicilian Mafia," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/16jvuuvsuc9, Sciences Po.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Religion; Islam; Geography; Redistribution; Land Inequality; Africa; Wealth Inequality; Trade.;

    JEL classification:

    • 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, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - General
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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