Book Review – Cotton, Climate, and Camels

Bookcases in the library of the University of Leiden, 1610

by The Honorable Lady Vashti al-A’sar


Cotton, Climate, and Camels in Early Islamic Iran: A Moment in World History by Richard W. Bulliet


  1. How to Identify a Cotton Boom
  2. Islam and Cotton
  3. The Big Chill
  4. Of Turks and Camels
  5. A Moment in World History

In Cotton, Climate and Camels Richard Bulliet explores the rise of cotton production and export in Iran during the ninth and tenth centuries.

It sounds simple, and a bit dry. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This tiny book (less than 200 pages) is easy to read and filled with details from primary sources. Even better, Bulliet does a great job making connections between different types of evidence to support his theory.

In addition to background information for  Persians, A’bbasids, and Seljuks, Bulliet explains how the changes in climate, religion, political, and cultural groups coincided in Persia in ways that affected technology, agriculture, and people’s daily lives. These changes are found reflected in the foundation and naming practices of towns, the naming practices for people, artistic styles, industries, and trade goods.

Despite some space given to qualification statements and academic conventions this book was easy to read and a great surprise in the amount of detailed information it contains.