Did climate change assist the emergence and rapid expansion of Islam in the 7th century CE?

Did climate change assist the emergence and rapid expansion of Islam in the 7th century CE?

Event Type: 

  • Seminar


ASE 3D Viz Laboratory Room (N2-B1c-16c)


09 Mar 2018

Start Time: 


End Time: 


About the Event: 

In the past few decades, frequent and intense droughts have caused mass civil unrest in the Middle-East and the displacement of over 9 million people. In the 6th and 7thcenturies CE, a very similar scenario was witnessed; all Arabian kingdoms and chiefdoms collapsed, leading to a mass-exodus and a restructuring of the regions political system. This socio-political transformation is considered a crucial prerequisite for the genesis of Islam at the beginning of the 7th century CE. Subsequently, the first Islamic caliphate conquered the entire Middle-East and much of northern Africa in less than 40 years. Current explanations for these profound developments focus almost entirely on socio-political factors. However, palaeoclimate proxy records demonstrate that these events happened contemporaneous to a period of dramatic climate change.  This paper presents data revealing this change and examines the mechanism through which it might have driven, or contributed to, this important moment in world history.



About the Speaker: 

Matthew Jacobson
PhD candidate

University of Reading

Matthew Jacobson is a PhD candidate studying Archaeology and Palaeoclimatology at the University of Reading, UK with experience in synthesising palaeoclimatic and archaeological/historical data-sets. He graduated with a BSc in Archaeology in 2016 and an MSc in Environmental Archaeology in 2017, both from the University of Reading. Matthew is a member of the Climate Change and History Research Initiative (CCHRI) based at the University of Princeton, USA and works for Quaternary Scientific (Quest), an environmental archaeology company studying the palaeoenvironment of London. He is interested on the impacts of climate change on humans, societies, and religion. For his PhD project, he is creating a network of stalagmite-based palaeoclimate records to study the influence of precipitation changes on a period of societal transformation in the Late Antiquity (~300-800 CE) of the Middle-East.