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The Arab Agricultural Revolution (also referred to variously as Medieval Green Revolution,Muslim Agricultural Revolution, Islamic Agricultural Revolution or Islamic Green Revolution) is a term coined by the historian Andrew Watson in a 1974 paper postulating a fundamental transformation in agriculture from the 8th century to the 13th century in the Muslim lands. He listed eighteen crops that were widely diffused during the Islamic period, such as durum wheat, Asiatic rice, sorghum, and cotton.
Watson's proposal was an extension of another hypothesis of an agricultural revolution in Islamic Spain proposed much earlier in 1876 by the Spanish historian Antonia Garcia Maceira.
Watson argued that the economy established by Arab and other Muslim traders across the Old World enabled the diffusion of many crops and farming techniques among different parts of the Islamic world, as well as the adaptation of crops and techniques from and to regions beyond the Islamic world. Crops from Africa such as sorghum, crops from China such as citrus fruits, and numerous crops from India such as mangos, rice, cotton and sugar cane, were distributed throughout Islamic lands, which, according to Watson, previously had not grown these crops. Watson listed eighteen such crops being diffused during the Islamic period. Watson argues that these introductions, along with an increased mechanization of agriculture, led to major changes in economy, population distribution, vegetation cover, agricultural production and income, population levels, urban growth, the distribution of the labour force, linked industries, cooking, diet and clothing in the Islamic world.
Paolo Squatriti notes in 2014 that Watson's thesis has, since 1974, been widely used and cited by historians and archaeologists working in different fields. However, Watson's paper was met with some scepticism at its time of publication, and some aspects of his work have received criticism since then.
Michael Decker claims that widespread cultivation and consumption of staples such as durum wheat, Asiatic rice, sorghum and cotton were already commonplace under the Roman Empire and Sassanid Empire, centuries before the Islamic period. He also claims that their actual role in Islamic agriculture has been exaggerated, arguing that the agricultural practices of Muslim cultivators did not fundamentally differ from those of pre-Islamic times, but rather evolved from the hydraulic know-how and 'basket' of agricultural plants inherited from their Roman and Persian predecessors. Decker claims the advanced state of ancient irrigation practices "rebuts sizeable parts of the Watson thesis."
^Decker 2009, pp. 187–8: "In support of his thesis, Watson charted the advance of seventeen food crops and one fiber crop that became important over a large area of the Mediterranean world during the first four centuries of Islamic rule (roughly the seventh through eleventh centuries C.E.)”
^Watson, Andrew M (1983), Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World, Cambridge University Press, ISBN0-521-24711-X.
^Cahen, C; Watson, Andrew M. (1986), "Review of Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World, by Andrew Watson", Journal of the Social and Economic History of the Orient29 (2): 217, doi:10.2307/3631792.
^Decker 2009, p. 191: "Nothing has been written, however that attacks the central pillar of Watson's thesis, namely the "basket" of plants that is inextricably linked to all other elements of his analysis. This work will therefore assess the place and importance of four crops of the "Islamic Agricultural Revolution" for which there is considerable pre-Islamic evidence in the Mediterranean world."
Decker, Michael (2009), "Plants and Progress: Rethinking the Islamic Agricultural Revolution", Journal of World History20 (2): 187–206, doi:10.1353/jwh.0.0058.
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