History and Animal Energy in the Arid Zone

Richard W. Bulliet

in Water on Sand

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199768677
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979608 | DOI:
History and Animal Energy in the Arid Zone

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This chapter proposes that geographic, macroeconomic, and technological factors that came into play after the twelfth century created, or greatly enhanced, a disequilibrium between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa. Europe experienced rapid population growth that increased demand for grain. Sustaining the human population took precedence over growing animal fodder, and this inflated the costs of using draft animals as a power source. These two developments intersected in an explosive growth in watermills and, to a lesser extent, windmills. A new social class thus emerged in Europe: millers operating water- or wind-driven machinery. In the Middle East and North Africa, an abundance of cheap, and often free, grazing kept the cost of animal power down regardless of fluctuations in the human population. Horses, oxen, mules, and donkeys could operate mills and other productive mechanical devices quite efficiently with minimal capitalization. As a result, the social class of millers that spurred Europe's economic growth never made an appearance in the Middle East, and the region therefore suffered a relative long-term lack of entrepreneurship, technical innovation, and accumulation of industrial capital.

Keywords: animals; energy; Middle East; North Africa; watermills; Europe; comparative economic history; arid zone; camels

Chapter.  8383 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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