Proposal preview

The Middle East and the Great Divergence

The middle east was a cradle of civilisation, and, during the Golden Age of Islam, it was arguably one of the world’s most dynamic centres of learning and civilization. In recent centuries, the West has surged ahead in income, technology, science, and governance. The middle east is not alone in ‘falling behind,’ but it has not played a leading role in discussions of the Great Divergence. This session will explore that topic. The early dynamism of the region poses particular questions: Why did the political evolution of the middle east differ from Europe’s and did those differences affect economic performance? Was Islam ‘growth promoting’ during the eighth and ninth centuries but became ‘grow retarding’ later, and, if so, why? What was the impact of the region’s location and its arid geography on economic development? How did changes in transportation, trade routes, and imperialism affect the region? Could different state policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have closed the gap with the West, and, if so, why were they not pursued? This session will explore these and similar questions. We invite proposals of papers from scholars around the world and hope in particular to build bridges between scholars in the middle east and other regions. Please consult


  • Robert C Allen, New York University Abu Dhabi,, United Arab Emirates
  • Eric Chaney, Harvard University,, United States of America
  • Sevket Pamuk, Bogazici University,, Turkey
  • Maya Shatzmiller, University of Western Ontario,, Canada

Session members

  • Robert C. Allen, New YorkUniversity Abu Dhabi,
  • Eric Chaney, Harvard University,
  • Joerg Baten, Universität Tübingen,
  • Maya Schatzmiller, University of Western Ontario,
  • Leander Heldring, Harvard University,
  • Mohamed Saleh, Toulouse School of Economics,
  • Nora Barakat, New York University Abu Dhabi,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Sevket Pamuk, Bogazici Univesity,