Political Economy, History, Historiography, Near East History


The Great Divergence accelerated a process of Western European states dominating the majority of the world’s geography and people economically and geopolitically. Given the stakes of this shift and its ramifications for all of the history that followed, and the significant way that the divide continues to shape our world, this phenomenon is subject to considerable debate within the historiography. This paper uses the Great Divergence as a departure point to analyze the different schools of political economic history, from the flawed sociologies of the early 20th century theorists to the World Systems Theorists and beyond. A key aspect of this epistemic transformation was the methodology and source material used, the choice of which made obvious the potential biases each work was liable, particularly in the works of the Orientalists, who promoted a school of thought that aided and abetted colonial capitalism. This paper tells the story of the emergence of modern political economy through the study of the Middle East, a region that was both subjected to, and existed in defiance of, the academic epistemes of the 20th century.