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Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam

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  • Stelios Michalopoulos
  • Alireza Naghavi
  • Giovanni Prarolo

Abstract

In this study we explore the historical determinants of contemporary Muslim representation. Motivated by a plethora of case studies and historical accounts among Islamicists stressing the role of trade for the adoption of Islam, we construct detailed data on pre-Islamic trade routes, harbors, and ports to determine the empirical regularity of this argument. Our analysis—conducted across countries and across ethnic groups within countries—establishes that proximity to the pre-600 CE trade network is a robust predictor of today's Muslim adherence in the Old World. We also show that Islam spread successfully in regions that are ecologically similar to the birthplace of the religion, the Arabian Peninsula. Namely, territories characterized by a large share of arid and semi- arid regions dotted with few pockets of fertile land are more likely to host Muslim communities. We discuss the various mechanisms that may give rise to the observed pattern.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18438
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    1. Reyerson, Kathryn, 2006. "Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade. By Avner Greif. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xix, 503. $34.99, paper," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 1080-1081, December.
    2. 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. Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 151-213.
    2. Lo Turco, Alessia & Maggioni, Daniela, 2018. "Effects of Islamic religiosity on bilateral trust in trade: The case of Turkish exports," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 947-965.
    3. Christopoulos, Dimitris K. & McAdam, Peter, 2019. "Efficiency, Inefficiency, And The Mena Frontier," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(2), pages 489-521, March.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
    7. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2014. "On the Ethnic Origins of African Development: Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 10257, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Boris Gershman, 2016. "Long-Run Development and the New Cultural Economics," Working Papers 2016-06, American University, Department of Economics.
    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. Emilio Depetris-Chauvin & Ömer Özak, 2015. "Population Diversity, Division of Labor and the Emergence of Trade and State," Documentos CEDE 014228, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    11. Mario Ferrero, 2018. "Why the Arab Spring turned Islamic: the political economy of Islam," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 230-251, June.
    12. 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Emilio Depetris-Chauvin & Ömer Özak, 2016. "Population Diversity, Division of Labor and Comparative Development," Departmental Working Papers 1605, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.

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    More about this item

    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
    • 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

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