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The Islamic side of Columbus Day

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and that's the way it was

It is Columbus Day, but I’m not commemorating Columbus for reasons that should be pretty obvious. But I wonder how many people learn about Columbus’s expeditions through the lens of what was happening in the Islamic world at the time. Without doing too deep a dive, because none of us really wants that, we can put the European Age of Discovery into some broader context.

Europeans had been trading with the Far East for centuries already by the time the Muslims showed up on the scene, as the discovery of Roman luxury goods in China, and Chinese luxury goods in Europe, would attest. Of even more importance to Rome was its trade with India, via the Red Sea and Egypt (or, if you’re inclined to believe early Muslim historians, via that massive international trade hub at Mecca, which was so massive that nobody seems to have written much…

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