Industry and Industrialism in the Late Antique and Early Islamic Near East

A Conference at the University of Chicago
Sponsored by The Oriental Institute, with generous funding from Prof. Guity Nashat.

 Co-Sponsors: International House Global Voices Program; The Franke Institute for Humanities; The Center for Middle Eastern Studies; The Chicago Booth School of Business; Department of Economics; Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; and Department of History.

 October 18-19, 2018

 Coulter Lounge, International House - 1414 E. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Scholarship over the last several decades has demonstrated the almost continuous economic upswing, in agrarian and commercial domains, in the Near East between the fourth and tenth centuries CE.  Textual and especially archaeological research has confirmed that cities in the eastern Mediterranean region and its hinterlands (including Iran and the Arabian peninsula) continued to be relatively large and vibrant, and interregional commerce remained lively.  In these respects, the Byzantine, Sasanian, and early Islamic domains seem to have differed markedly from the northern Mediterranean and Western Europe in the same period.

We know less, however, about the status and structure of industrial production during this period (from roughly the fourth to the tenth century CE).  To what extent was industry a factor in economic growth? How was industry organized and capitalized? Did industrial production mainly occur in small-scale workshops, or were larger factories part of the picture?  Was industrial production mainly supported by single investors, private families, or groups of private investors, or were state patronage and organization also involved?  Can we ever speak of a state policy of “industrialism” in this period, with the enhancement of industrial production as a conscious goal of state policy?  Can we discern trends and changing patterns of investment in industry over time during this period?

The conference aims to bring together and to stimulate a lively conversation among scholars whose work explores different aspects of these questions.   It is open to the public free of charge; pre-registration is encouraged (see Registration page on this site).

Organized by Profs. Fred M. Donner and Richard Payne