- The rise and fall of large-scale enslavement combined to form one aspect of the transition to global modernity, and it is well represented in Muslim Empires and other parts of the Islamic world.
- The development of expanded imperial government, most notably in the Ottoman, Iranian, and Mughal states--but also in Islamic states of other parts of Africa and Asia--was part of a more general sequence of governmental changes.
- The expansion of European colonial rule from the 18th to the 20th centuries was a significant if commonly negative aspect of the transition to global modernity.
- The place of Muslim Empires in the long-term changes of the global economy warrants further study. The notion of the Great Divergence has now been developed rather fully for East Asia -- the implications of this thinking for Muslim Empires and surrounding areas would benefit from more study.
- The framework of broader social and cultural interaction with time.
- The framework of the African diaspora.
- The framework of empire and colonialism might be applied more systematically.
- The framework of the world economy and its links in commerce, production, and social class.
- The framework of population size and migration.
- The framework of ecological change, including the history of health.
Most basically, by dethroning the dichotomy of rise and decline of putatively self-contained societies from its primacy in the interpretation of history. Instead, a focus on interactions within and among social groups and regions envisioned at various scales can provide a richer view of the past. Attention to the hajj and its importance as an institution and as a symbol of commonality may suggest that it has been a forerunner of modern-day interconnection.
My work on the African diaspora gives substantial attention to large portions of the Islamic world: portions of sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghrib, the Middle East, South Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Europe. The work raises questions about the movement of numerous people of sub-Saharan African ancestry, in slavery in freedom, throughout the Islamic world. It posits the possibility of substantial cultural continuity and innovation spread by this African diaspora. It raises questions about how and when racialized visions of black people developed (for instance, I suspect that there were links in the rise of racial ideology among Europeans and Middle Easterners, as reflected for instance in the expanding slave army of Mulay Isma’il in Morocco). It speaks to the possible specific roles of African-descended people in the colonial and post-colonial struggles of North Africa and the Middle East.
Secondly, my work on migration suggests that there is much to be learned through systematic study of migrations of various sorts in the Muslim Empires and adjoining areas. I have worked on migration and on regional population estimates for all of Africa back to 1600, and find both that the magnitude of migration has been significant and that the levels of population were quite a bit higher than is now usually thought. I favor more systematic estimates of population in the period 1300-1900 for all areas of the world and—in this context—specifically for the Middle East, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia.
The paradigm separates the period 1300-1900 from the times before and after it; it defines the Islamic world in terms of Middle Eastern empires rather than its larger and expanding frontiers; it contrasts a declining Islamic world to a rising European world; it focuses history on imperial conflict and assumes an underlying religious hostility as the motive force for this history.
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History