The Birthplace of Capitalism - The Middle East

by Nima Sanandaji

Iraq and Syria bring to mind bombs, terrorism, and human suffering. Still, every time violence ceases in Mosul or Aleppo, bazaars and daily life spring back to life.

No wonder. Here, European merchants flocked for centuries, and while politics come and go, traditions die hard.

In this historical tour de force, Iranian-Kurdish author Dr. Nima Sanandaji tells the long history of free markets in the Middle East, where banks and capitalism emerged millennials ago. It is a history rich in imagery and learning, and yet, maybe it’s most important feature is the lessons it provides for today’s Western world.

Could it be that it is to ancient Middle East we must turn in order to recapture the attitudes and social fabric that once made us successful?

The Birthplace of Capitalism – the Middle East shows that the road towards peace and freedom in the Middle East is to again embrace free enterprise and international exchange. In the past lies the future.

Ssu-Ma, 100 BC

"Each man has only to be left to utilize his own abilities and exert his strength to obtain what he wishes… When each person works away at his own occupation and delights in his own business, then like water flowing downward, goods will naturally flow ceaselessly day and night without being summoned, and the people will produce commodities without having been asked."

Ibn Khaldun, 1380 AD

"It should be known that at the beginning of a dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessment. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessment. The reason for this is that when the dynasty follows the ways of Islam, it imposes only such taxes as are stipulated by the religious law, such as charity taxes, the land tax, and the poll tax. These have fixed limits that cannot be exceeded."

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Media Coverage


"Nima Sanandaji has in this excellent book enhanced the understanding of the Middle East by observing the region through the perspective of trade. He shows deep knowledge in both trade and Middle East history. The combination of these aspects is an important contribution to the ongoing debate in Europe on migration and integration."

Ph.D. History of Religion/ Islamology & Middle East

"This provocative and educated account on the roots of capitalism offers a humbling corrective to the all too familiar claim that there are cultures that are inherently anti-market. Thus, in the spirit of Bastiat, Sanandaji makes a convincing case that the way to recovery for the Middle East must lie in releasing – not restricting – economic activity, as is currently done through sanctions and military intervention. A hearting must-read in an era of ever-increasing polarization and pessimism."

— Karin Svanborg-Sjövall
President & CEO of Timbro