• Long Divergence (Kuran)


The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).
The Long Divergence on Facebook. Read reviews.

(Ed.) Mahkeme Kayıtları Işığında 17. Yüzyıl İstanbul’unda Sosyo-Ekonomik Yaşam / Social and Economic Life in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul: Glimpses from Court Records, 10 vols. (Istanbul: İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2010-13). See contents of volumes.

Topics of volumes:

  • 1. Guilds and Guildsmen + Communal Affairs of Christians and Jews + Foreigners (932 pp.),
  • 2. Commercial Partnerships (659 pp.),
  • 3-4. State-Individual Relations, including Taxation (544+708 pp.),
  • 5-6-7-8. Waqfs (584+650+677+651 pp.),
  • 9-10. Credit Markets and Uses of Interest (529+497 pp.).

Articles and Essays

(with Jared Rubin), "The Financial Power of the Powerless: Socio-Economic Status and Interest Rates Under Partial Rule of Law." Economic Journal, 127 (2017): in press.

Legal Roots of Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East: Civic Legacies of the Islamic Waqf.” American Journal of Comparative Law, 64 (June 2016): in press.

(with Anantdeep Singh) “Economic Modernization in Late British India: Hindu-Muslim Differences”. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 61 (2013): 503-38.

"The Political Consequences of Islam's Economic Legacy." Philosophy & Social Criticism, 39 (2013): 345-405.

(with Scott Lustig)  “Judicial Biases in Ottoman Istanbul: Islamic Justice and Its Compatibility with Modern Economic Life.” Journal of Law and Economics, 55 (2012): 631-66.

The Economic Roots of Political Underdevelopment in the Middle East: A Historical Perspective.” Southern Economic Journal, 78 (2012): 1086-95.

“Political Consequences of the Middle East’s Economic Legacy.” In Institutions and Patterns of Economic Development: Proceedings of the Sixteenth World Congress of the International Economic Association, vol. 1, ed. Masahoki Aoki, Timur Kuran, and Gérard Roland (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 99-115.

"West is Best? Why Civilizations Rise and Fall". Foreign Affairs, 90 (January-February 2011): 159-63. Printer friendly version.

“Economic Development in the Middle East: The Historical Roles of Culture, Institutions, and Religion,” in Culture and Development , ed. Jean-Philippe Platteau (New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 87-102.

“The Rule of Law in Islamic Thought and Practice: A Historical Perspective,” in Global Perspectives on the Rule of Law, ed. James J. Heckman, Robert L. Nelson, and Lee Cabatingan (New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 71-89.

The Scale of Entrepreneurship in Middle Eastern History: Inhibitive Roles of Islamic Institutions,” in The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times, ed. William J. Baumol, David S. Landes, and Joel Mokyr (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), pp. 62-87.

Institutional Causes of Underdevelopment in the Middle East: A Historical Perspective,” in Institutional Change and Economic Behavior, ed. János Kornai, Laszlo Matyas, and Gérard Roland (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008), pp. 64-76.

  • Chinese translation by Qingjin Zhou: “Zhong Dong Luo Hou de Zhidu Yuanyin: Yige Lishi Shijao.” Journal of Institutional Economic Research,  (2010): in press.

“Alle radici del deficit di imprenditorialità in Medio Oriente.” Biblioteca della libertà, 42 (March 2007): 11-36.

"The Absence of the Corporation in Islamic Law: Origins and Persistence." American Journal of Comparative Law, 53 (July 2005): 785-834.

"The Logic of Financial Westernization in the Middle East." Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 56 (April 2005): 593-615.

"Islamic Statecraft and the Middle East's Delayed Modernization," in Political Competition, Innovation and Growth in the History of Asian Civilizations, ed. Peter Bernholz and Roland Vaubel (Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar, 2004), pp. 150-83.

"Why the Middle East Is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18 (Summer 2004): 71-90.

  • Reprint in The Development Economics Reader, ed. Giorgio Secondi (London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 107-25.
  • Chinese translation: "Zhong Dong Di Qu He Yi Jing Ji Luo Hou: Jing Ji Ting Zhi De Li Shi Ji Li." Kai Fang Shi Dai (Open Times), 183 (March 2006): 89-105.
  • Arabic translation: "Asbāb Takhalluf al-Sharq al-Awsat Iqtisadiyyan Al-Āliyyat al-Tārikhiyyah lil-Rukūd al-Mu‘assasatiy."http://www.misbahalhurriyya.org, April 2006.
  • Italian translation: "Perché il Medio Oriente è Economicamente Arretrato: Meccanismi Storici di Stagnazione Istituzionale." QA: Rivista dell' Associazione Manlio Rossi-Doria, 2005: 45-73.

"The Economic Ascent of the Middle East's Religious Minorities: The Role of Islamic Legal Pluralism." Journal of Legal Studies, 33 (June 2004): 475-515.

"The Islamic Commercial Crisis: Institutional Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East." Journal of Economic History, 63 (June 2003): 414-46. Abstract

  • Reprint in Historical methods in the Social Sciences, ed. John Hall and Joseph Bryant (New York: Sage, 2005), pp. 45-82.

"Islamic Redistribution Through Zakat: Historical Record and Modern Realities," in Poverty and Charity in Middle Eastern Contexts, ed. Michael Bonner, Mine Ener, and Amy Singer (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), pp. 275-93.

"The Provision of Public Goods under Islamic Law: Origins, Impact, and Limitations of the Waqf System ," Law and Society Review, 35: 4 (December 2001), 841-97. Abstract

"Islamic Influences on the Ottoman Guilds ," in Kemal Çiçek (ed.), The Great Ottoman-Turkish Civilization , vol. 2 (Ankara: Yeni Türkiye, 2000), pp. 43-59.

  • Turkish translation: "Osmanlı Lonca Teşkilâtı Üzerinde İslâmî Etkiler," in Güler Eren (ed.),  Osmanlı, vol. 3 (Ankara : Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 2000), pp. 97-112.

"The Vulnerability of the Arab State: Reflections on the Ayubi Thesis." Independent Review, 3 (Summer 1998): 111-23.

"Islam and underdevelopment: An old puzzle revisited," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 153 (March 1997): 41-71. Abstract

  • Farsi translation (by Yadullah Dadgar): Naqd va Nazar, 3 (Winter 1997): 310-53.
  • French translation: "L'Islam et le sous-développement: Un vieux puzzle revisité," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines , 8 (March 1998): 27-60.
  • Turkish translation (by Cihan Dansuk and Timur Kuran): "İslâm ve Geri Kalmışlık: Eski Bir Muammaya Çözüm Arayışları," Birikim, 137 (September 2000): 68-89. Revised form reprinted in Timur Kuran, İslâm'ın Ekonomik Yüzleri (Istanbul : İletişim, 2002): 211-253.

Comments, replies, edited works

Masahiko Aoki, Timur Kuran, and Gérard Roland, eds., in cooperation with Bina Aggarwal and Jan Svejnar, Institutions and Patterns of Economic Development: Vol. 1 of the Proceedings of the Sixteenth World Congress of the International Economic Association  (London: Palgrave, 2012.

Aptullah Kuran, Selçuklular’dan Cumhuriyet’e Türkiye’de Mimarlık / Architecture in Turkey from the Seljuks to the Republic, ed. by Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu, Lucienne Thys-Şenocak and Timur Kuran (İş Bank Publications, 2012), 788 pp. Table of contents + preface by Timur Kuran + Introduction by  Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu and Lucienne Thys-Şenocak.

Synergies between Middle Eastern Economic History and the Analytic Social Sciences,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44 (2012): 542-45.

Excerpt of Long Divergence: Milken Institute Review, 13 (2011): 59-76.

Editor of special issue on “The Economic Performance of Civilizations: Roles of Culture, Religion, and the Law,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 71 (2009): 589-721.

“Preface: The economic impact of culture, religion, and the law,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 71 (2009): 589-92.

Reply to Özay Mehmet's comment on review 12, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 26 (February 1994): 175-76.

Encyclopedia articles

“Banks and banking,” Encyclopedia of Islam, 3rd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2015), print and online.

“Economic theory,” Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012): 142-44.

"Islamic economic institutions," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd ed., ed. Steven Durlauf and Lawrence Blume (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): 299-302.

"Capitalism," Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004): 126-28.

"Property," Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, vol. 2 (New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004): 553-54.

"Riba," Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, vol. 2 (New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004): 596-97.

"Levant: Islamic Rule," Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History, vol. 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003): pp. 309-14.

(with Jeffrey Nugent) "Economic Development," Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995): pp. 393-97.

  • Revised and updated, Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), in press.


Lydon, Ghislaine. On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), in Journal of Economic History, 69 (December 2009): 1182-84.

Pamuk, Sevket. A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), in International Journal of Turkish Studies 8 (Spring 2002): 144-46.

Ali Rahnema and Farhad Nomani, The Secular Miracle: Religion, Politics and Economic Policy in Iran London: Zed Books, 1990), in Journal of Islamic Studies, 3 (July 1992): 286-88.

Özay Mehmet, Islamic Identity and Development: Studies of the Islamic Periphery (London: Routledge, 1990), in International Journal of Middle East Studies, 24 (February 1992): 137-40.


Selected videos

"Unlikely Heroes of the Arab Spring, with Hernando de Soto” (educational video of Free to Choose Network for PBS; includes segments from a Duke interview), 2013.

Video interview, Istanbul Seminars, May 20, 2012: "Islamic Law and the Challenge of Democracy."

“Economic development of the Islamic World.” Duke Office Hours, March 5, 2010 (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/5205729).

“Religion and the Open Society Symposium: Religion, Innovation, and Economic Progress,” Lawrence Harrison, Timur Kuran, and Robert Woodberry, Councilon Foreign Relations, March 25, 2008. See video

Farsi translation of transcript: “Din, Noavari va Pishrafte Eghtesadi” (Religion, Innovation, and Economic Progress). http://www.donya-e-eqtesad.com/Default_view.asp?"=106536 (2008).

Writings for the popular press

Op-ed: "Phase III of the Arab World's Modernization: Building Accountability and Boosting Creativity," pp. 10-11 in World Economic Forum, The Compendium on Economic Governance in the Arab World 2011.

Op-ed: "The Weak Foundations of Arab Democracy," New York Times, May 28, 2011.

"Legal Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East," European Financial Review (February-March 2011): 10-11 (essay summarizing the Long Divergence).

"Chera Khavarmiyaneh tose Nayafteh ast" Donyaye Eqtesad (January 30, 2007) p. 32.

"Warum der Nahe Osten ärmer als der Westen ist." Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25-26 March 2006, p. 33.


Interview with Steven Richmond and Jared Rubin on financial markets in Ottoman Istanbul: "Study Explores Ottoman Empire's Upside Down Lending System." BadCredit.org, November 6, 2014.

Radio interview with David Inge, WILL am  580, Illinois Public Media, on "How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East," April 9, 2012.

Interview on BBC Forum program podcast on "World Economic Crisis," moderated by Bridget Kendall. Participants: Timur Kuran, Danny Quah (LSE) and Robert Skidelsky (British House of Lords), December 14, 2011.

Radio interview with Jerry Bowyer, The American Entrepreneur, November 10, 2011:“Why Can’t the Middle East Catch Up to the World’s Leading Economies.” 

Radio interview with Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace (March 4, 2011): "Historical Roots of Middle Eastern Uprisings."

Podcast of interview with Anthony Gill of University of Washington, on why the Middle East fell behind Western Europe during the millennium preceding the Industrial revolution.

with Ali Bilge on Acik Radyo (94.9 FM Istanbul) regarding the causes of  economic underdevelopment in the Middle East, in Turkish. (Ali Bilge ile Acik Radyo'da "Orta Dogu'nun ekonomik azgelismisligi" konulu soylesi (2 bolum: 29-30 Haziran 2010).)

with Aaron Steelman: "Research Past and Present." Region Focus, Journal of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 13 (Summer 2009): 28-32.

with Jerry Oster: “A challenging exploration of Islam and Economics, http://news.duke.edu/2008/02/kuran.html.

in Farsi: "Ellat-e-Aslie Tose Nayaftegi az Negah-e Nahadgerayee" (Main Cause of Underdevelopment from the Viewpoint of Institutionalism).

with Simone Cofferati: "Islam, economy, and democracy." EAST (Europe and Asia Strategies), English edition, 13 (February 2007): 77-79.

with Allison Engel: "Conversation with Timur Kuran." USC News, 18 December 2006, [Shorter version: USC Chronicle, 26 (14), January 8, 2007, p. 2]

Works in Progress

Book manuscripts (working titles)

"The Political Legacies of Islam."

Essays (with date of latest draft)

"Opportunistic Taxation in Middle Eastern History: Islamic Influences on the Evolution of Private Property Rights" (August 2002).

"Islamic Barriers to Ottoman Economic Modernization: The Case of Insurance Markets" (September 2004).

"Redistribution under Islamic Law: Evolution through Time" (in progress)

"Religious Freedoms in Islamic History" (in progress).

“Islam and Economic Performance: Historical and Contemporary Links” (in progress).


Return to Timur Kuran's main page.

Learn more about the conference on Islam and Economic Development held April 1-3, 2010 at Duke University.

    • Photo Credit: Izzet Keribar

 The Camondo stairs in Karaköy, Istanbul were built as the Ottoman Empire undertook legal reforms, in twists and turns.

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