Conquest, Empire, Impact, and Context: The Early Islamic Empire in a Medieval World System



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The expansion of the early Islamic Empire has long been associated with the Fall of the West and the End of Antiquity. In fact, in his thesis, Henri Pirenne argued in 1939 that the seventh-century Islamic conquests solidified the End of Antiquity and decimated the Mediterranean economy. I argue that Pirenne’s thesis was incomplete. First, the drastic changes which occurred in the post-Roman Mediterranean world took hold long before the Islamic state expanded through the Mediterranean and Asia Minor and had various causes, such as plague, natural disaster, and social transformations. Second, the expansion and consolidating reforms enacted under the Umayyad and subsequent caliphates provided opportunities for new economic and communication networks to evolve and contribute to a new Mediterranean world-system.



medieval history, history, Pirenne, Islamic Empire, Mediterranean, historiography, archaeology, economic history, social history, imperialism, empire