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Cambridge University Press
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March 2017
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Book description

For centuries following the spread of Islam, the Middle East was far ahead of Europe. Yet, the modern economy was born in Europe. Why was it not born in the Middle East? In this book Jared Rubin examines the role that Islam played in this reversal of fortunes. It argues that the religion itself is not to blame; the importance of religious legitimacy in Middle Eastern politics was the primary culprit. Muslim religious authorities were given an important seat at the political bargaining table, which they used to block important advancements such as the printing press and lending at interest. In Europe, however, the Church played a weaker role in legitimizing rule, especially where Protestantism spread (indeed, the Reformation was successful due to the spread of printing, which was blocked in the Middle East). It was precisely in those Protestant nations, especially England and the Dutch Republic, where the modern economy was born.


Winner, 2018 Douglass C. North Research Award, Society of Institutional and Organizational Economics

Winner, 2019 Lindert-Williamson Triennial Prize, Economic History Association


'In a fascinating analysis of why the Middle East fell behind, Jared Rubin points to events centuries ago that led the Middle East and the West to different sources of political legitimacy and different paths of institutional change. His insight not only explains why political autocracy and economic stagnation have dominated the Middle East but why our policies there seem to fail.'

Philip Hoffman - California Institute of Technology

'In the early Middle Ages, the Muslim Mediterranean world was technologically progressive and sophisticated and had a flourishing economy, while Western Europe was a poor backwater. In modern times, north-west Europe took the lead and became the cradle of economic growth. What explains this momentous reversal of fortune? In a fresh and original work, Rubin combines history, economics, and politics to come up with a startling new explanation that will have scholars arguing the matter for years.'

Joel Mokyr - Northwestern University, Illinois

'Jared Rubin is among the boldest and most creative young scholars of political economy today. His highly entertaining and enlightening book is a path-breaking magnum opus in the burgeoning field of economics of religion. Rulers, Religion, and Riches restores the pertinent role of secularism in sociopolitical and economic development to its rightful place.'

Murat Iyigun - Calderwood Endowed Chair, University of Colorado, Boulder

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