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  • Thumbnail for In search of the Granary of Rome : environmental decline in Roman North Africa
    In search of the Granary of Rome : environmental decline in Roman North Africa by Heberlein, Will Robinson

    Visitors to North Africa have long noticed a sharp contrast between the lush landscape described in ancient texts which supported Roman cities like Leptis Magna, and the more arid, barren landscape of North Africa today. Environmental historians have traditionally attributed this contrast to a decline in the extent of forests and in agricultural fertility since the start of the Roman period, brought on by an overexploitation of Rome’s natural resources. Recently, however, this model has been criticized by several post-colonial and environmental theorists, who argue that the idea of decline in North Africa is a colonial invention that allowed Europeans to exert control over North Africa’s Arab and Berber populations. This essay seeks to evaluate the history and the historiography of the North African environment, and of the Mediterranean environment more generally, to uncover the extent to which decline may have occurred. It concludes that environmental decline did indeed occur in North Africa, but the source of this decline was the Roman Empire itself. The nomadic Arab people of North Africa cannot be blamed for the environmental changes which took place before their arrival. At the same time, human-influenced decline must not be ignored when considering the Roman Empire’s complex legacy.

  • Thumbnail for In search of the Granary of Rome : environmental decline in Roman North Africa
    In search of the Granary of Rome : environmental decline in Roman North Africa by Heberlein, Will Robinson

    Visitors to North Africa have long noticed a sharp contrast between the lush landscape described in ancient texts which supported Roman cities like Leptis Magna, and the more arid, barren landscape of North Africa today. Environmental historians have traditionally attributed this contrast to a decline in the extent of forests and in agricultural fertility since the start of the Roman period, brought on by an overexploitation of Rome’s natural resources. Recently, however, this model has been criticized by several post-colonial and environmental theorists, who argue that the idea of decline in North Africa is a colonial invention that allowed Europeans to exert control over North Africa’s Arab and Berber populations. This essay seeks to evaluate the history and the historiography of the North African environment, and of the Mediterranean environment more generally, to uncover the extent to which decline may have occurred. It concludes that environmental decline did indeed occur in North Africa, but the source of this decline was the Roman Empire itself. The nomadic Arab people of North Africa cannot be blamed for the environmental changes which took place before their arrival. At the same time, human-influenced decline must not be ignored when considering the Roman Empire’s complex legacy.

  • Thumbnail for Is it Economics, or the Bad Luck of a Conflict-Ridden DNA: A Study of the Causes of Civil War in the Middle East and North Africa
    Is it Economics, or the Bad Luck of a Conflict-Ridden DNA: A Study of the Causes of Civil War in the Middle East and North Africa by Al Alami, Mayss Rajab

    The Middle Eastern Exceptionalism theory characterizes the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with an inevitable, conflict-ridden nature that cannot be resolved. Such a theory, when adopted by policy makers and scholars, leads to misconceptions about the region. Amongst these misconceptions is blaming factors such as the dominance of the religion of Islam and social fractionalisation for the conflict in the region. More fundamental factors, such as poor economic conditions are then seen as mere results of such social characteristics. This study contends the theory of Middle Eastern Exceptionalism, and compares the factors that increase the likelihood of civil war globally to those in the MENA region. This study concludes that three economic factors have the greatest influence on increasing the likelihood of civil war, and these are: low income per capita, low economic growth, and large population size. It also finds that foreign intervention and religious fractionalisation increase the likelihood of civil war onset. Most importantly, however, the study presents strong results that there are no factors unique to the MENA region that increase its likelihood of civil conflict. This conclusion encourages policy makers to eliminate the theory of Middle Eastern Exceptionalism, and to instead adopt more tactical and proactive approaches in the region to treat the prevalent grievances that cause civil war.