Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam

46 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2012

See all articles by Stelios Michalopoulos

Stelios Michalopoulos

Brown University - Department of Economics; Brown University

Alireza Naghavi

University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Giovanni Prarolo

University of Bologna; University of Milan - Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano (LdA)

Date Written: October 2012

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

Michalopoulos, Stelios and Naghavi, Alireza and Prarolo, Giovanni, Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam (October 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18438, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2157882

Stelios Michalopoulos (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/steliosecon/

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Alireza Naghavi

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, 40126
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://alirezanaghavi.altervista.org/

Giovanni Prarolo

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, 40100
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www2.dse.unibo.it/prarolo/

University of Milan - Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano (LdA) ( email )

Via P. Amedeo 34
Milano, Mi 20122
Italy

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