Course: ECON 3R03 - The History of Economic Growth
Instructor: J. Leach
Study of geometry did not begin with Euclid he was simply summarizing
what was known at the time. Even though the Chinese had interactions
with the Arabic world they didn’t encounter Euclidean geometry until the
Europeans arrived in China many years later. Euclid also wrote on optics
and many of ‘his books were translated pretty soon after by the Arabs.
He created a map of the known world to the Greeks at the time, plotting
everything in terms of latitude and longitude, with great accuracy. His map-
ping work was hugely inﬂuential but also led unknowningly to the discovery
of the New World. Ptolemy’s map made the distance to China via the west
seem much shorter than it actually was which caused Columbus to set out for
China westward, eventually landing in the Americas. His astronomy model
remained the gold standard until the Copernican revolution.
The Antikythera sunk around 100BC, in the early 1900s the ﬁrst artifacts
were recovered from the shipwreck. This was the ﬁrst time we know that the
Greeks had the concept of gears and how to build more complex machines
from them; these advances were lost to us for a long time.
While the Romans were able to inherit a lot of this Greek science most of it
ended up going to the Islamic world where progress would be centered for
the next era of history.
1 Islamic World
Expansion & Conquest
At the time of Mohammed’s death the Islamic world expanded quickly through
Syria and Egypt. The Persians were exhausted from a continuous ﬁght with
the Romans which allowed the relatively smaller Islamic armies to easily
overrun the Persian empire. Eventually the Islamic forces took control of the
Mediterranean Ocean as well as the islands of Crete and Sicily.
Most of this early expansion was driven by disorganized tribesmen who wanted
to gain more territory and not so much with the goal of converting peoples
to the Islamic religion. Many of the conquered peoples were co-opted into
administrating their territories.
As a consequence of the Islamic takeover being ochestrated by a collection of
smaller armies there was no unique Islamic culture and the main languages
of the empire was Greek & Palovy. There was no unique architecture at the
The best thing that happened to the empire was the stabilization of its borders.
At some point in time the armies discovered they couldn’t expand any farther.
These borders were established by the battle of Talis, which determined the
farthest east the expansion could go (fought against the Chinese) and the
failed conquest of northern Europe. There were two options to go through
Europe being north to France through Spain or through the