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Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam

  • Stelios Michalopoulos
  • Alireza Naghavi
  • Giovanni Prarolo

This study examines the spatial distribution of Muslim societies shedding light on its geographic origins. The empirical analysis conducted across countries, virtual countries, and ethnicities establishes that geographic inequality and proximity to pre-Islamic trade routes are fundamental determinants of contemporary Muslim adherence. We provide anthropological evidence from historical societies suggesting that geographic inequality (i) increased the importance of trade for subsistence, and (ii) exacerbated social inequality nurturing a predatory environment. We conjecture that Islam with its moral and economic principles was instrumental in providing a centralized authority addressing the underlying economic inequalities and promoting trade.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18438.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18438
Note: DEV EFG POL
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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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