In Search of the Early Islamic Economy

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Michael Bonner


Editors’ Note: Michael Bonner passed suddenly and tragically on May 25 of this year while at work on a late draft of the present article. We are grateful to his spouse, Dr. Daniela Gobetti, for granting us permission to publish it in its current form. We opted to do so, not simply because it was well along in the production process, but more to the point, on the strength of its content. It is our understanding that Michael had intended to produce a full, book-length study on the basis of these same ideas and arguments. The present article, if somewhat programmatic, builds on Michael’s recent scholarship on the “economy of poverty” and Arabian trade, among other topics. His stated goal was to raise new and pressing questions on a much-neglected topic and, in doing so, situate his discussion in the context of the most recent developments in imperial economic history—in this case as they relate to the early Islamic realm. It is our conviction that here, as in all of his previous published work, Michael advances the study of early and medieval Islamic history forward many paces.

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economy, early islamic