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The Invisible Hand?How Market Economies have Emerged and Declined Since AD 500$
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Bas van Bavel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199608133

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608133.001.0001

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Markets in an Early Medieval Empire

Markets in an Early Medieval Empire

Iraq, 500–1100

(p.41) 2 Markets in an Early Medieval Empire
The Invisible Hand?

Bas van Bavel

Oxford University Press

Iraq in the seventh to ninth century, after a period of revolts that had produced a balance between various social groups, saw the development of dynamic land, lease, and labour markets, and financial markets sprang up later. Within the resulting highly monetized and market-oriented setting, inequality started to rise. A new, wealthy elite came to the fore, which combined large landholding with financial dealings. By advancing cash to the state and acquiring a pivotal role within the tax system, this elite found opportunities to strengthen its political role. Gradually, the focus of the market elites shifted to the political sphere, and to developing instruments of coercion, rather than investing in the economy. As other people had no means for investment, due to the unequal distribution of wealth, and markets became skewed to the interests of the elite, the economy of Iraq in the tenth century started to fall again.

Keywords:   Iraq, early Middle Ages, Abbasid era, social revolts, sharecropping, financial markets, slaves, inequality

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