A historian and former banker, Koehler has written a book that belongs to the older school of historiography... His arguments are in line with those of the Jesuit Henri Lammens, who emphasized Arabia's vibrant commercial culture, and the Marxist Maxime Rodinson, who argued that capitalist institutions like private property were central to early Islam. Summing Up: Recommended...Upper-division undergraduates and above. CHOICE The British economic historian Benedikt Koehler sheds light on an entirely different Muhammad: the entrepreneur from Mecca and the founder of economic institutions which - long before Italian cities of the Renaissance - gave an impetus to capitalist business practices. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [A]n excellent [and] well-researched book. Financial Times The title of the book by an historian and former banker was surely devised with an eye to the marketing: it ... [will] appeal to all readers interested in the world's dominant economic system who retain a healthy curiosity about its origins, and also tho those with an interest in Islam and its contribution to civilization...Overall, this has been an easy, enjoyable and at times riveting read...Well-referenced as it is, this is an excellent primer...It is an enlightening spring through a fascinating period of history, illuminated by comparisons with other eras and regions and indeed fictions such as One Thousand and One Nights. Economic Affairs This is a wonderful book! It is well written, well organized, and well documented. It makes good use of multi-lingual sources and lays out its argument in concise chapters. I leave my read of the book convinced that Weber got it wrong, and that capitalism was born elsewhere...Koehler's assertion that the organizational know-how of capitalism is portable (in this case to Europe) rings true...This book would thus be of interest to any scholar of capitalism. It would be useful in graduate level classes in economics and sociology. Students of Weber would find this work interesting, as would Islamic scholars. International Social Science Review With a deft hand, Benedikt Koehler weaves parables and precedents into a thesis so compelling-for the American Muslim reader, so painfully intuitive-it begs the question how could contemporary capitalism's seed not be present in the earliest of Islamic life and thought. Koehler demonstrates why explaining the origins of capitalism cannot be limited to examining Western ideas alone, it being the case that the regulated commercial risk-seeking prevalent at Islam's advent was just as critical as sources of intellectual precedent which eventually shaped thinking the world over. His work represents an opportunity for bridge building that combats a legacy of misinformation and polarization inherent in comparative presentations of Islamic and Western economic systems and histories. -- Arshad A. Ahmed, Managing Director, Elixir Capital
About the Author
Benedikt Koehler is the editor of A History of Financial Disasters 1857-1923 and is the author of biographies of Ludwig Bamberger, one of the founders of Germany's Deutsche Bank, and of nineteenth-century political philosopher Adam Muller.