Oxford Roman Economy Project University of Oxford
 
 

The fabric of society. State intervention, artisan agency, and the performance of textile manufacturing in the medieval Middle East

04-10-2012

This paper discusses the organization of export-oriented textile manufacturing in the medieval Middle East and assesses if and how the way in which this sector was organized contributed to its failure to keep up with the expansion of European textile industries in the late Middle Ages. Based on evidence from Iraq and Egypt the paper analyzes the relation between state and entrepreneurs on the one hand and that between entrepreneurs and workers on the other, comparing both to the situation in Europe. While the older literature suggests that in the Middle East an overbearing state was to blame for much of what went wrong in the manufacturing sector, this paper advances an alternative explanation, related to the contribution of the European guilds and urban authorities to quality control.

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