Lecture 7 – The Economy

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Lecture 7 – The Economy
What do we mean by Economic History
oEconomic history refers to the study f the factors which conditioned and affected
the performance of the economy of a given society living in a given geographical
boundaries and the standards of living which its people were able to afford
oFor medieval societies, these factors are in the order of importance:
Demography, e.g. population size
oThe productivity of the agricultural sector and the ability to sustain the population
oIn the next stage of economic development come:
Urbanization and urban manufacturing (e.g. industry and the commodities)
Commercialization: e.g. prices and wages, markets, money, trade (regional
and international) and commerce
Relationship between Population and Agriculture
oPre-modern societies all suffered from the ‘Malthusian trap’
People pressing on the resources which causes decrease in wages, decline
of economy, etc.
Limit number of births or more disease, war, etc.
oDemographic conditions in the Middle East at the arrival of the Muslims indicate
an exogenous shock to the population: the plague
At time of Arab conquest, the Justinian plague relieved pressure on
Made the entire conquest possible and successful relatively easily
oThe agricultural productivity was influenced by the demographic collapse: crops,
land tenure, etc.
oTaxation, cultivation contracts, techniques were affected
oNeed to find the Malthusian equilibrium
Egypt and Iraq’s Special Agriculture
oWe should differentiate between the river irrigated agricultural lands, Iraq and
Egypt and the regions where agriculture was practiced but on a different scale and
with a different organizational patterns and different returns
Productivity was high in Iraq and Egypt
oNew crops, new plants or intensive cultivation?
Andrew Watson suggested that new plants were spread from India, such as
sugar came, oranges, lemon, cotton, eggplants and bananas
Even if the places existed in the Middle East, as others pointed out,
Watsons point was that they became cultivated on a larger scale and they
had a larger effect on productivity
New plants created demand in the cities which drove efficiency and
influenced cultivation patterns
Productivity increased allowing surpluses leading to export
Large areas were devoted to the cultivation of industrial crops
Benefits of Growing Productivity in Agriculture
Taxes mostly derived from the rural areas but spent in cities
Greater surplus in the countryside could increase the state income in
taxation was efficiently organized
Early documents from the Islamic period in Arabic but also in Greek or
Coptic, the papyri, deal with the organization of tax collection
Under the Abbasids, the financial administration developed thanks to the
spread of paper and book keeping
Administration incorporated previous systems of collection but also of the
land holding based on previous principles and status
In the Qur’an, Muslims are not responsible for anything except the Zakat,
the 10%, ushr, the tenth value on immovable property as charity tax
Non-Muslims needs to pay the Jizya, the head tax on their land, the kharaj
After conversion of the owner, the tax reverted to the land and the
owner had to pay kharaj
As land tenure regime was evolving the question who owned the land, the
State or individuals became crucial
Land holding developed differently in each region of the Middle East
during early and later periods
Initially, land in Egypt and Iraq belonged in principle to the State and was
leased out to cultivators
Tax collection was first in the hands of agents and then tax
farmers, damins
Land Ownership Status and Conditions
oBy the 10th century, a new landholding appear: the iqta, from the state’s holdings
land, land or villages, given to soldiers, in lieu of wages
oThey were responsible for tax collection but whether or not they shared it with the
State is unclear
oTheoretically they were restricted to paying the zakat
oThe land tax could be assessed in two ways:
1. Either on the harvest according to percentage, which could vary
according to the quality of the land and the nature of the crop and was paid
in kind. Therefore the revenue was changing from year to year
System called muqasama, namely proportional
2. Calculate the tax on the fixed surface size, and calculated in money.
This is called by the misaha, the land survey
Rate of musasama varied between ¼ and ½
Kharaj on misaha was calculated in order to achieve the same
Factors behind Urban Expansion
oDemographic conditions of the Middle East
oPatterns of settlement
oOld and new cities
Urbanization Inland and Mediterranean
oUrbanization of the Middle East may be discussed in chronological order
oMediterranean cities declined between 5-7th centuries
oWestern Europe under the Carolingians turned north and abandoned the
Mediterranean and the continuity of Mediterranean trade was broken even under
the Byzantine Empire because of the Justinian plague
oItaly was the only one to have kept gold coinage because of its relationship with
oIslamic urbanization focused on the interior and was very intensive
oMuslims cities such as Baghdad in 800 AD were the largest in the world (500,000
to 1 million)
oAs a result, the trade movement began over the overland routes and not in the
oSecond period begins in the 1th century and lasts until the 13th
Islamic trade became maritime
Third is between 14-16th centuries when trade is dominated by the Italian
cities: Genoa, Pisa and Venice as well as Marseille and Barcelona
oMain industries
oOrganization of labour
No evidence of professional guilds as in Europe
The muhtasib, the market supervisor, was responsible to watch over moral,
the market commodities and transactions, and the performance of the
Muhtasib was helped by an agent for each of the professions known as
amin and ‘arif
This head of the profession was not appointed by the state while the
muhtasib was. He applied the rules and had a police force at his disposal
oDivision of labour
Food processing and textile industries the largest in the cities
Construction, leather and metal next
Small amounts of paper, pottery and chemical
oIndustrial quarters
Industries were grouped according to specialization and located in
quarters, streets or lanes
Apprenticeship took place in the workshop but following manuals was
equally common
Artisans worked mostly for themselves but the state had workshops,
especially for the production of luxury textile production of clothing to
give as royal presents
State controlled industries such as minting and shipbuilding, but industries
were free enterprise
State have monopolies on import of raw materials such as wood for ships
Artisans were salaried, self-employed