History of Europe and the Islamic world

Society and economy

In the medieval period in Europe Islam and Christianity flourished. The fact to be reckoned was that Islam was spreading really fast and if some powerful Christian rulers had not defeated some advances of the Muslims, Europe would have had Muslim nations. The fact that papacy was powerful and they supported only Christians and extended all support to them is one of the reasons that Christianity continued to be strong in Europe and Islam moved to African and Asian countries. Islam began to become popular from 632. After Prophet Mohammed his relatives took charge and declared themselves to be caliphs. However some other clans like Umayyad, Abbasid also came to power and declared themselves to be caliphs.


The administration under the caliphs was decentralized. The local administrators had considerable power. Other cultures were tolerated as long as they paid special tax, did not revolt and obeyed the rules of the caliphate. Arabic was the official language. Slavery was a major part of the social fabric and was the labour force of the country. Landlords remained in power and farmers were the bulk of the population. Under the Abbasid dynasty hospitals, schools, orphanages and mosques were set up throughout the empire. This helped in the spread of intellectual ideas. Algebra and Greek became popular. Studies on latitude and longitude were taken up. Greek and Persian texts were translated into Arabic. Some universities were also established. During early Islam women were treated very well; they were considered equal to men. They could keep their dowries and female infanticides were never heard of.  Two major clans of the Muslims were the Shiites and Sunnis. Shiites were the descendents of the Prophet Mohammed and in the Sunnis branch anyone could become the caliph. The Sunni branch is larger.


Some economic innovations which was came up in that period remain to this day and some have been modified and got a new form. Paper money was introduced. Flying cash or letters of credit was adapted from China. Serfs could work on the land but could never leave the land. Trade routes increased during this period. The west and the east were better connected so there was a large transfer of knowledge and practises in all fields. Gold, ivory spices and slaves were traded from places below the Sahara while cloth, salt and metal ware came from Sahara. Through the Silk Route silk and porcelain from China came into the European countries. By finding routes to India through Indian Ocean more trade routes were discovered. Europe was mostly interested in the spices form the East Indies. But there was unfavourable balance between the two continents as in the east no one really wanted the European goods. Trade not only improved economy but also brought many cultural exchanges.

What is the relationship between the Islamic world and the European Renaissance?
What did Islam do to Europe?
When did Muslims go to Europe?
Who stopped the spread of Islam in Europe?