Abstract Prof. Timothy Power
Timothy Power (Zayed UniversityAbu Dhabi)
Abstract: Long-Distance Trade in the Early Islamic Empire (c. 651-945)
This paper will examine the operation of long-distance trade in three overlapping zones of interaction, each possessed of distinctive and discrete sets of developmental dynamics. (i) Within the empire, incoming regimes repeatedly sought to develop the communications infrastructure and reorient trade towards newly created dynastic capitals; this included the creation of roads, digging of canals and improvement of ports using state resources. (ii) At the frontiers of empire, trade was expanded by non-state actors through whose agency an ‘unofficial empire’ began to develop; force was not uncommonly employed to secure commodities and led to the creation of subsidiary emirates beyond the frontier. (iii) Beyond the empire, intercontinental trade routes were pioneered by mercantile companies and funded by private capital; to be economically viable these high-risk ventures had of necessity to deal in low-bulk high-value luxury commodities. The paper will conclude with an assessment of the relative contribution of these overlapping zones to the imperial economy, and examine how the interplay between them furthered the integration of the early Islamic empire.