Timur Kuran: The long divergence: how Islamic law held back the Middle East
The Long Divergence by Timur Kuran provides an institutional explanation for why the Middle East fell behind Europe in the period before the industrial revolution and why Middle Eastern countries continue to lag behind in terms of income per capita and levels of democratization today. Kuran has developed these arguments in a number of published articles (notably Kuran 2001, 2004a, 2004b), but this book allows him to demonstrate how they come together to elucidate the long history of the Islamic Middle East. It is a major achievement that should be read by everyone with an interest in the region, as well as by scholars in economic history and institutional economics. A short review certainly cannot do it full justice. Moreover, as experts on Islamic law and the history of the Middle East will be better placed to assess these parts of the book than I am, I will instead focus on assessing the institutional analysis underlying the main argument of The Long Divergence.
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