Jared Rubin: Rulers, religion, and riches: Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not?
The central puzzle posed by Jared Rubin in this excellent new book is: Why did sustained economic growth begin in north-western Europe as opposed to the Islamic Middle East? Circa 1000 CE, the Middle East was undoubtedly the more advanced region, as measured by levels of urbanization, commercial development, and trade. Bagdad was probably the largest city in the world and the majority of the largest urban centers in Europe and the Middle East were Muslim. But by 1750, on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, no observer could dispute that a tremendous reversal had occurred and that on every margin, the leading Middle Eastern states were laggards, way behind the Dutch Republic or Britain in terms of economic development or likelihood of experiencing sustained economic growth. Since 1750, this gap has only widened (notwithstanding the temporary boon of oil wealth that has enriched the Gulf states).
Rulers, Religion, and Richesis firmly in the tradition of institutional analysis...
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