Sunday, January 30, 2011

The crescent and the company
For most of its history the Middle East was just as dynamic as Europe. The great bazaars of Baghdad and Istanbul were full of fortune-seekers from hither and yon. Muslim merchants carried their faith to the far corners of the world. In the 1770s Edward Gibbon had little difficulty imagining Islamic theology being taught in Oxford and across Britain—if only the battle of Tours-Poitiers in 732 had turned out differently.
But even before Gibbon the balance of power had shifted. Angus Maddison has calculated that in the year 1000 the Middle East’s share of the world’s gross domestic product was larger than Europe’s—10% compared with 9%. By 1700 the Middle East’s share had fallen to just 2% and Europe’s had risen to 22%.

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