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On Trans-Saharan Trails, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Introduction

The book On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa by Ghislaine Lydon addresses the relevance of the economy in the Sahara desert prior to modernization and considers the manner in which the history of the Sahara has had a tremendous impact on economic conditions and the challenges that prevailed in the 19th Century. The book evaluates the premise that religious and literacy-based frameworks played a significant role in removing trade barriers across the Sahara in order to stimulate relationships between Jews and Muslims regarding financial matters that became prevalent in the absence of any well-defined currency system during this era (Lydon 2). Under these conditions, it would typically be inevitable that economic decline would surely prevail; however, the creation of trade was facilitated by these Jew and Muslim connections to ensure that economic conditions were thriving (Lydon 2). The book is grounded in the belief that literacy and religion were the foundation of these trade opportunities and supported the continued faith in economic growth across the Sahara, often times at lengthy distances (Lydon 2). As a result, the book provides an interesting perspective regarding the underlying conditions that led to economic growth and change in this area. The book also supports historical research in a new light and reflects upon the critical nature of language utilization and frameworks in order to recount the events that took place in the 19th Century Sahara in a positive and meaningful manner (Lydon 2).

Body

The primary focus of the book is based upon a variety of historical representations, including economic, religious, literacy, political, and legal issues. The book exemplifies a number of different interpretations to determine how to examine history in a new way and to determine how different resources were used to accomplish economic growth and change (Lydon 2). The book offers a number of examples of cultural influences and how these impacted the lives of the people of the Sahara and how different groups were integrated in order to accomplish improved economic conditions (Lydon 276). In addition, the concept of culture is also used in the context of legal expectations and norms by exploring Islamic ideals and other “hybrid” beliefs regarding the legal system at this point in time (Lydon 276). The book depicts the challenging nature of culture and its impact on trade and economic opportunity in a challenging era that depicts these influences in supporting trade and other economic improvements by using a research-based approach (Cambridge University Press).

The book depicts a unique relationship between Jews and Muslims which is characterized by a number of different concerns and challenges, such as the continued emphasis on one common goal: trade (Lydon 68). In this context, the author notes that “Collaboration in trade between Muslims and Jews was commonplace since, as Goitein observed, international trade ‘naturally was interdenominational.’ Jews partnered in caravans with Muslims, sharing trust and commercial agreements that prevailed into the twentieth century” (Lydon 68). From this perspective, it was apparent that trade and economic opportunity was for more relevant than any existing animosity between Jews and Muslims over religious differences, as these two groups recognized that they shared common goals and objectives regarding economic growth (Lydon 68). Therefore, their relationship was further solidified and enhanced by sharing ideas and garnering mutual trust to accomplish their objectives (Lydon 68).

The developments that emerged in the Sahara during the 19th Century also depicted an economy that struggled due to the lack of common currency and a lack of resources to unify the people of this region (Lydon 255). In this context, it became challenging to continue at status quo; therefore, intercultural relationships began to evolve and provided these groups with a means of expanding trade and advancing the economy in different ways (Lydon 255). The creation of an environment to promote trade across long distances was facilitated by the Jews and Muslims in collaboration, in spite of the opposition to this association by other groups (Lydon 255). The lack of a common form of currency was a unique challenge during this period, and from a legal perspective, loans provided in one form of currency and repaid in another form of currency were not allowable and were against the law (Lydon 255). However, trade relations continued to improve in spite of these concerns and reflected the necessity to develop a type of currency that would be accepted for use across the Sahara in all types of trade relationships (Lydon 255). It was important to develop a greater understanding of the different contributions of trade to the economy of this area during this period because trade opened up many new doors for locals and provided them with many economic opportunities that would not have otherwise been achieved (Lydon 255).

In the context of cultural diversity, no group could survive without interaction without the other because the economy could not grow and survive. Therefore, the development of new relationships and trust was a critical component in achieving success for the people of the Sahara during this period. Therefore, it was important to demonstrate the contribution of this book to the understanding of trade and economic growth in West Africa during the 19th Century (The American Historical Review 910). Therefore, this book supports the prevalence of trade growth and the opportunities that became available to this population in an era when economic change was imminent (The American Historical Review 910). In this context, the book provides an important reflection regarding the ability of trade to break cultural barriers and to expand different opportunities for growth and change within the context of legal boundaries and religious limitations (The American Historical Review 910).

Conclusion

The issues surrounding trade in the Sahara desert were a significant contributor to the overall direction of the economy during the 19th Century. During this era, it became important to develop new opportunities for trade development and growth that would cross cultural boundaries and expand the limits of legal precedence in order to improve the economy and to provide a better life for all residents of the Sahara desert. The book offers a research-based approach to the development of new ideas and expectations for growth and change within the Sahara and sheds new light on the development of trusting relationships between the Jews and Muslims to facilitate trade and remove barriers. Therefore, the economic conditions in the Sahara began to change, in spite of the continued challenges that prevailed. As a resource for education and learning, this book provides a number of interesting insights into this population and the cultural differences that were evident during this era. The book’s research-based evaluation is indicative of a new approach to examining the history of this population and how it contributed to economic growth and the removal of barriers. These efforts are critical to the understanding of the West African economy from a new angle that supports cultural diversity and trust in different forms.

Works Cited

Cambridge University Press, 2013. “On Trans-Saharan Trails.” 13 April 2013: http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1175060/?site_locale=en_GB

Lydon, Ghislaine. On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-Cultural  Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa. Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.

“On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa.” The American Historical Review, 116.3(2011): 910-911.

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