The Politics of Sūqs in Early Islam

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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Abstract

In the early Middle Ages, while Byzantium was impoverished and Anatolian cities were evolving into fortified kastra, the Islamic Near East enjoyed an age of economic and demographic growth. Exploring the formation of sūqs and the rise of the Umayyad and early ‘Abbāsid states, this article argues that the Arab-Islamic aristocracy’s involvement in establishing sūqs reflected a desire to exert power and build legitimacy. Despite their physical resemblance to Late Roman and Sasanian bazaars, early Islamic sūqs functioned differently, and their specificity exemplifies an evolution of labour patterns from 700 to 950, in particular the social rise and increasing religious involvement of merchants. This article places the archaeological evidence in dialogue with the literary. Although the Islamic material is central, comparisons in the paths of trade and economic life between the Middle East and Western Europe provide ways to identify the divergences between East and West after the fall of Rome.

The Politics of Sūqs in Early Islam

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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