ProjectGlobalizing the Mediterranean Economy in the Seventh Century

Basic data

Globalizing the Mediterranean Economy in the Seventh Century
01/11/2020 to 31/01/2024
Abstract / short description:
Historical research, reinforced by recent political developments, has argued that starting from the Early Middle Ages the Mediterranean divides Europe from the Islamic world. This idea, known as Pirenne Thesis, suggested that the rise of Islam and its economic blockade of the West caused the collapse of long-distance commerce in the Mediterranean. The Pirenne Thesis has been disputed at times, but particularly its conclusions of when the European economy emerged have been pushed back in time, (as, most notably, in Chris Wickham’s, Michael McCormick’s, and Richard Hodges’ studies). Fundamental problems, however, remain unsolved. No study has:
a) Questioned that the seventh-century Islamic expansion provoked the collapse of the Mediterranean system.
b) Demonstrated how elites thought about and used gold and silver in a market economy.
c) Shown how a market economy was created through trade, monetary economy, fiscality, and the consolidation of a mixed labour regime.
d) Examined multiple regions in the Western Mediterranean including Visigothic and Byzantine Iberia, Byzantine North Africa, Byzantine and Lombard Italy to understand how these regions were linked.
This project embarks on an innovative plan: an economic history of the Western Mediterranean and adjacent regions from the sixth to the seventh centuries that offers a new, comprehensive picture for the emergence of the economies of Western Medieval Europe. I will challenge that the seventh-century Islamic expansion caused the collapse of the Mediterranean system. Since no such generalised crisis or end-of-the-ancient-world scenario existed, I propose an alternative line of interpretation. I argue that monetary economy based on gold and silver led to mass social inequalities and the emergence of a new social elite at the expense of the poor.
labour market
Mediterranean Sea

Involved staff


Institute of Medieval History
Department of History, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of Medieval History
Department of History
Faculty of Humanities


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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