This review examines state building in the Middle East from a long-term, historical perspective. The Middle East's early transition to settled agriculture meant the region was home to many of the most sophisticated and best-developed states in the ancient world. As Middle Eastern states emerged from Late Antiquity, their fiscal and bureaucratic capacity enabled institutional forms not possible in Europe, including reliance on slave soldiers for the state military elite as well as state control of land that could be distributed to state servants in the form of temporary, revocable land grants. Because a landed gentry did not emerge as an influence-wielding social class in the Middle East until a relatively late date, religious elites—who served as important providers of public goods as a result of their control of Islamic charitable foundations—became key intermediaries between state and society. Core features of the institutions of Islam's classical period largely persisted until the decline of the Ottoman Empire with implications for the nation-state forms to follow.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Ahram A, Lust E. 2016. The decline and fall of the Arab state. Survival 58:27–34 [Google Scholar]
  2. Anderson L. 1986. The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830--1980. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  3. Arjomand SA. 2010. Legitimacy and political organisation: caliphs, kings and regimes. See Irwin 2010b 225–73
  4. Bagnall R. 1995. Egypt in Late Antiquity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  5. Barfield T. 1990. Tribe and state relations: the Inner Asian perspective. Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East P Khoury, J Kostiner 153–85 Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press [Google Scholar]
  6. Barkey K. 1994. Bandits and Bureaucrats: The Ottoman Route to State Centralization. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  7. Berkey J. 2010. Islam. See Irwin 2010b 19–59
  8. Black A. 1992. Political Thought in Europe, 1250–1450 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  9. Blaydes L, Chaney E. 2013. The feudal revolution and Europe's rise: political divergence of the Christian West and the Muslim world before 1500 CE. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 107:116–34 [Google Scholar]
  10. Blaydes L, Chaney E. 2016. Political economy legacy of institutions from the classical period of Islam. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics SN Durlauf, LE Blume New York: Palgrave Macmillan [Google Scholar]
  11. Blaydes L, Grimmer J, McQueen A. 2016. Mirrors for princes and sultans: advice on the art of governance in the medieval Christian and Islamic worlds. Work. Pap., Dep. Polit. Sci., Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA
  12. Blaydes L, Paik C. 2016. The impact of Holy Land Crusades on state formation: war mobilization, trade integration, and political development in medieval Europe. Int. Organ. 70:3551–86 [Google Scholar]
  13. Bosworth E. 2010. The steppe peoples of the Islamic world. New Cambridge History of Islam 3 D Morgan, A Reid 19–77 New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  14. Bray J. 2010. Arabic literature. New Cambridge History of Islam 2 M Fierro 383–413 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  15. Brett M. 2010. State formation and organization. New Cambridge History of Islam 2 M Fierro 549–85 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  16. Bromley S. 1994. Rethinking Middle East Politics Austin: Univ. Texas Press [Google Scholar]
  17. Bulliet R. 2010. Muslim societies and the natural world. See Irwin 2010b 209–21
  18. Burke E III. 1998. Islam and social movements: methodological reflections. Islam, Politics and Social Movements E Burke III, I Lapidus 17–38 Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press [Google Scholar]
  19. Carneiro R. 1970. A theory of the origin of the state. Science 169:733–38 [Google Scholar]
  20. Chaney E. 2013. Revolt on the Nile: economics shocks, religion and political power. Econometrica 81:52033–53 [Google Scholar]
  21. Chaney E. 2016. Religion and the rise and fall of Islamic science. Work. Pap., Dep. Econ., Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA
  22. Charrad M. 2001. States and Women's Rights: The Making of Post-Colonial Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press [Google Scholar]
  23. Christie N. 2014. Muslims and Crusaders: Christianity's Wars in the Middle East, 1095–1382, from the Islamic Sources London: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  24. Crone P. 1986. The tribe and the state. States in History JA Hall 48–77 Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell [Google Scholar]
  25. Crone P. 1999. The early Islamic world. War and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds K Raaflaub, N Rosenstein 309–32 Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  26. Crone P. 2003 (1980). Slaves on Horses: The Evolution of the Islamic Polity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  27. Darling L. 2002. “Do justice, do justice, for that is paradise”: Middle Eastern advice for Indian Muslim rulers. Comp. Stud. South Asia Africa Middle East 22:1/23–19 [Google Scholar]
  28. Darling L. 2013. A History of Social Justice and Political Power in the Middle East: The Circle of Justice from Mesopotamia to Globalization. London: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  29. Donner FM. 1981. The Early Islamic Conquests. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  30. Fieldhouse DK. 2006. Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914–1958. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  31. Finer S. 1997. The History of Government: Volume II, The Intermediate Ages Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  32. Fromkin D. 1989. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. New York: Holt [Google Scholar]
  33. Fukuyama F. 2011. The Origins of Political Order: From Pre-Human Times to the French Revolution. London: Profile Books [Google Scholar]
  34. Gerber H. 1987. The Social Origins of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner [Google Scholar]
  35. Grzymala-Busse A. 2015. Nations under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority to Influence Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  36. Guo L. 2010. History writing. See Irwin 2010b 444–57
  37. Gutas D. 1981. Classical Arabic wisdom literature: nature and scope. J. Am. Oriental Soc. 101:149–86 [Google Scholar]
  38. Haber S. 2012. Rainfall and democracy: climate, technology, and the evolution of economic and political institutions. Dep. Polit. Sci., Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA
  39. Hallaq W. 2010. Islamic law: history and transformation. See Irwin 2010b 142–83
  40. Harding C. 2010. Turkish literature. See Irwin 2010b 424–33
  41. Hariri J. 2012. The autocratic legacy of early statehood. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 106:3471–94 [Google Scholar]
  42. Hariri J. 2015. A contribution to the understanding of Middle Eastern and Muslim exceptionalism. J. Polit. 77:2477–90 [Google Scholar]
  43. Hechter M. 2013. Alien Rule. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press. [Google Scholar]
  44. Hillenbrand C. 1999. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. Edinburgh: Univ. Edinburgh Press [Google Scholar]
  45. Irwin R. 1986. The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk Sultanate, 1250–1382 London: Croom Helm [Google Scholar]
  46. Irwin R. 2010a. Introduction. See Irwin 2010b 1–16
  47. Irwin R. 2010b. New Cambridge History of Islam 4 Islamic Cultures and Societies to the End of the Eighteenth Century Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  48. Kadi W. 2014. Identity formation of the bureaucracy of the early Islamic State: Abd al Hamid's “letter to the secretaries.”. Mediterranean Identities in the Premodern Era: Entrepots, Islands, Empires J Watkins, K Reyerson 141–55 New York: Taylor & Francis [Google Scholar]
  49. Kennedy H. 1981. The Early Abbasid Caliphate: A Political History. London: Croom Helm [Google Scholar]
  50. Kennedy H. 2001. The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State. New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  51. Kennedy H. 2002. Mongols, Huns and Vikings: Nomads at War. London: Cassell [Google Scholar]
  52. Kennedy H. 2004. The decline and fall of the first Muslim empire. Der Islam 81:3–30 [Google Scholar]
  53. Kennedy H. 2010. The city and the nomad. See Irwin 2010b 274–89
  54. Kristo-Nagy I. 2016. Conflict and cooperation between Arab rulers and Persian administrators in the formative period of Islamdom, 600–950 CE. Empires and Bureaucracy in World History from Late Antiquity to the Twentieth Century P Crooks, T Parsons New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  55. Kuran T. 2001. The provision of public goods under Islamic law: origins, impact, and limitations of the waqf system. Law Soc. Rev. 35:4841–98 [Google Scholar]
  56. Kuran T. 2004. Why the Middle East is economically underdeveloped: historical mechanisms of institutional stagnation. J. Econ. Perspect. 18:71–90 [Google Scholar]
  57. Kuran T. 2011. The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  58. Lapidus I. 1975. The separation of state and religion in the development of early Islamic society. Int. J. Middle East Stud. 6:4363–85 [Google Scholar]
  59. Lapidus IM. 1996. State and religion in Islamic societies. Past Present 151:3–27 [Google Scholar]
  60. Lapidus IM. 2014. A History of Islamic Societies. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 3rd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  61. Leiser G. 2010. The Turks in Anatolia before the Ottomans. New Cambridge History of Islam 2 M Fierro 301–12 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  62. Lewis B. 1993. Islam and the West. New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  63. Lewis B. 1994. The Shaping of the Modern Middle East. New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  64. London J. 2008. How to do things with fables: Ibn al-Muqaffa's frank speech in stories from Kalila wa Dimna. Hist. Polit. Thought 29:2189–212 [Google Scholar]
  65. London J. 2011. The circle of justice. Hist. Polit. Thought 32:3425–47 [Google Scholar]
  66. London J. 2016. Autocracy and the foreigner: the political thought ofIbnal-Muqaffa. Unpublished manuscript, Dep. Polit. Sci., Univ. Calif. Los Angeles
  67. Manz BF. 2010. The rule of the infidels: the Mongols and the Islamic world. New Cambridge History of Islam 3 D Morgan, A Reid 128–68 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  68. Marlow L. 1997. Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Islamic Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  69. Michalopoulos S, Naghavi A, Paolo G. 2010. Trade and geography in the economic origins and spread of Islam: theory and evidence. Work. Pap., Dep. Econ., Brown Univ., Providence, RI
  70. Migdal J. 1988. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  71. Morony M. 1984. Iraq after the Muslim Conquest. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  72. Mottahedeh R. 2001. Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society. London: I.B. Tauris [Google Scholar]
  73. North D, Wallis JJ, Weingast B. 2012. Violence and Social Orders A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  74. Ober J. 2015. The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  75. Olson M. 1993. Dictatorship, democracy and development. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 87:3567–76 [Google Scholar]
  76. Olsson O, Paik C. 2013. A Western reversal since the Neolithic? The long-run impact of early agriculture. Work. Pap. 139, Cent. Compet. Advant. Glob. Econ., Univ. Warwick, Coventry, UK
  77. Olsson O, Paik C. 2016. Long-run cultural divergence: evidence from the Neolithic Revolution. J. Dev. Econ. 122:197–213 [Google Scholar]
  78. Owen R. 1981. Middle East in the World Economy, 1800–1914 London: Methuen [Google Scholar]
  79. Patel DS. 2015. Lines in the sand? State death in the Middle East and North Africa. Presented at Annu. Meet. Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc., Sep. 3–6, San Francisco
  80. Petry C. 2012. The Criminal Underworld in a Medieval Islamic Society: Narratives from Cairo and Damascus under theMamluks. Chicago: Middle East Documentation Cent [Google Scholar]
  81. Putterman L. 2014. History and comparative development. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics S Durlauf, L Blume New York: Palgrave Macmillan http://doi.org/10.1057/9780230226203.3921 [Google Scholar]
  82. Robinson CF. 2010. Introduction. New Cambridge History of Islam 1 The Formation of the Islamic World, Sixth to Eleventh Centuries CF Robinson 1–16 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  83. Rogan E. 2015. The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East. New York: Basic Books [Google Scholar]
  84. Stasavage D. 2010. When distance mattered: geographic scale and the development of European representative assemblies. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 104:625–43 [Google Scholar]
  85. Stasavage D. 2016. Representation and consent: why they arose in Europe and not elsewhere. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 19:145–62 [Google Scholar]
  86. Tsugitaka S. 1997. State and Rural Society in Medieval Islam: Sultans,Muqta'sandFallahun. Leiden, Neth.: Brill [Google Scholar]
  87. Turchin P. 2009. A theory for formation of large empires. J. Global Hist. 4:191–217 [Google Scholar]
  88. Von Grunebaum GE. 2008 (1970). Classical Islam: A History, 600 AD to 1258 AD New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction [Google Scholar]
  89. Watt WM. 2000 (1968). Islamic Political Thought Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  90. Wickham C. 1985. The uniqueness of the East. J. Peasant Stud. 12:2/3166–96 [Google Scholar]
  91. Wittfogel KA. 1957. Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power. New Haven/London: Yale Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  92. Yavari N. 2014. Advice for the Sultan: Prophetic Voices and Secular Politics in Medieval Islam. London: Hurst [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error