The Culture and Politics of Commerce
Bazaars in the Islamic World
The introduction examines the history and development of the bazaar from its simple origins as a marketplace selling trade goods at a crossroads to a complex structure faceted with every element of Middle Eastern life. Urbanization—both its tangible and its intangible attributes—evolved with the bazaar at its core; a concentration of economic, social, political and religious relationships coalesced around the commercial center. Guild organization, social relationships, Islam and trade, crafts and workers, the location of bazaars in rural and in urban settings, the political connections between the bazaars and the state are all thematic discussions in the chapter. Bazaars have been formed and shaped by a series of complex forces and by ordinary people, mostly in the absence of master plans. People value the market as the most dynamic and vivacious part of their society, which argues for the necessity of preservation and conservation plans for bazaars. As manifestations of hundreds of years of history, culture, and human interactions, they are living museums that will continue to function even though their form may change.
Keywords: Trade, ancient commercial networks, development of trade centers, guilds, marketplaces, merchants, urbanization, public space, economic and social order, state-bazaar dynamics, types of bazaars
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