The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East

long divergence coverPrinceton University Press, October 22, 2012

In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind — in living standards, technology, and economic institutions. In short, the Middle East had failed to modernize economically as the West surged ahead. What caused this long divergence? And why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped compared to the West? In The Long Divergence, one of the world’s leading experts on Islamic economic institutions and the economy of the Middle East provides a new answer to these long-debated questions.

“Professor Kuran’s book offers the best explanation yet for why the Middle East has lagged. After poring over ancient business records, Professor Kuran persuasively argues that what held the Middle East back wasn’t Islam as such, or colonialism, but rather various secondary Islamic legal practices that are no longer relevant today.”


Reviews & Citations

The Crescent and the Company,” by Schumpeter columnist in The Economist
Is Islam the Problem?” by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times
Questions from My Islam Column,” Answers to questions on Nicholas Kristof’s blog
The Long Divergence,” by Ziauddin Sardar in The Independent
Prophet Motive,” by John Cassidy in the New Yorker
Selling Out the Koran,” by Chris Berg in the National Times of Australia
Long Divergence,” by L. Carl Brown in Foreign Affairs
What Made the Middle East Fall Behind the West?,” by Şahin Alpay inToday’s Zaman
Timur Kuran,” by Tyler Cowen in the Marginal Revolution.
Historical Roots of Middle Eastern Uprisings.” by ” Kai Ryssdal’s radio interview on NPR’s Marketplace.
Legal Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East,” European Financial Review (Feb-Mar 2011): 10-11.
Review and long excerpt  by Peter Passell in the Milken Institute Review, 13 (2011): 59-76.
Review with an emphasis on the role of the state by Metin Coşgel in the Journal of Economic History, 71 (December 2011): 1114-16.
“Islamic Law, Institutions and Economic Development in the Islamic Middle East,”by Eric Chaney, a review essay in Development and Change, 42 (December 2011): 1465-72, calls for greater attention to the political constraints facing leaders in the Islamic Middle East, Europe, and Byzantium.
Is Islam Bad for Business,” by Jack Goldstone, a review essay in Perspectives on Politics, 10 (March 2012): 97-102.
The Economic Toll of Islamic Law,” by Thanassis Cambanis, in Boston Globe, Ideas, July 1, 2012
Review by Mark Koyama, Public Choice, 153 (March 2013): 341-43.