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In this book, Maurice Lombard portrays the Islamic world as the center of civilization at a time when the West was primitive and backward. Its reach extended from C rdoba to Samarkand, and it maintained and developed the tradition of wealth, cultural and artistic achievement, and thriving urban life that it had absorbed from its predecessors, the civilizations of Greece, Egypt, and Persia, and the ancient cities of the Middle East. It is this Islamic economy and civilization that the author portrays at its height and brilliantly sets into its context of satellite, in part semi-civilized, peripheral worlds--black North Africa, the barbarian West, the region of Russian rivers, and the Byzantine Empire. The book is considered a masterpiece of the Annales school of French historians.