MESAS 254/HIST 254: From Pearls to Petroleum: The History of Global Commodities, the Middle East, and the Islamic World

This second-year seminar explores the development of transregional economies and cultures through the study of four kinds of goods or commodities originating in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean region and radiating out of the broader Islamicate world: pearls and other gems, spices, coffee, and petroleum. By examining environmental, historical, and economic concepts and data, the course offers factual knowledge and analytical tools for understanding the commodity chains, trading networks, economic institutions, political dynamics, and shifting cultural values implicated in the rise and transformation of resources and products into commodities and ultimately into global goods.

A special feature of this semester’s seminar is that it dovetails with Wondrous Worlds, a major exhibition of Islamic art hosted by the Carlos Museum. We will be exploring production, valuation, use, transregional circulation, and cultural significance through “digital hands-on” study of some of the objects of the exhibition. You have the option to choose one of the exhibits for your final project.