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Lesson 5.4B: Mehmet Ali and Reforms in Egypt


Lesson 5.4B: Mehmet Ali and Reforms in Egypt


Topic 3: Mehmet Ali and Reform in Egypt


(Muhammad Ali) Mehmet Ali of Egypt (1769-1825) enacted a series of reforms in Egypt that overhauled the Egyptian military, economy, and social hierarchy. This lesson asks students to evaluate his ultimate goals and methodology and to evaluate his place in history. In this lesson students analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources. Working in small groups they use a variety of graphic organizers to help them evaluate the program and goals of Mehmet Ali. Concluding activities include a variety of essay-writing topics, or an imaginary interview with Mehmet Ali himself.


Joan Brodsky Schur


Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: A World History Curriculum Project for Educators


Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University




2014, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University, published under Creative Commons – Attribution-No Derivatives 3.0 License


This lesson can be implemented in two 45-minute class periods.


National Standards for History, National Center for History in the schools Era 7, Standard 3 A: ...Analyze the efforts of Muhammad Ali to found a modern state and economy.


• Students will identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative and assess its credibility

• They will draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring issues

• They will use evidence to support a conclusion


• Student Handout 5.4.2 Documents and Questions

• Student Handout 5.4.3 Assess Mehmet Ali’s Accomplishments: Graphic Organizer

• Student Handout 5.4.4 Rise and Fall Which groups gained or lost power under Mehmet Ali’s rule? Graphic Organizer

• Student Handout 5.4.5 Flow Chart of Mehmet Ali’s Reforms

Lesson Plan Text

1. Distribute Student Handout 5.4.2 to each class member. Student Handout 5.4.2 includes fourteen documents of primary and secondary sources.

2. Distribute two graphic organizers to each student, Student Handouts 5.4.3 and 5.4.4.

3. Create teams of students. Each team will work through all documents, but they can divide the work amongst themselves, such that each student tackles only three or four documents.

4. Once students are assigned documents ask them to:

a. Answer all questions about their documents

b. Fill in information about their documents on the two graphic organizers.

c. Report back to their Team about their documents.

d. Listen to student summaries of other documents.

e. Continue to fill in more information on their graphic organizers as they do so.

5. Note: It is suggested that you implement Lesson 5.4.1. before this one if you have the time. It uses primary source images of Mehmet Ali as a way to engage students in analyzing the man and how he was viewed by others.

6. Assessment: If you have implemented Lesson 5.4.1., return to the images of Mehmet Ali in that lesson. Ask students to revise their own “image” of Mehmet Ali based on the new sources they read in lesson 5.4.2.

7. Ask students to formulate questions for an interview with Mehmet Ali. Afterwards they should imagine how Mehmet Ali would have answered their questions and write a full Question and Answer interview with the man himself. For more advanced students, think about the point of view of the interviewer and create a persona for him or her – as a French or Ottoman diplomat (or his wife), Egyptian sheik, etc. Call up pairs to enact the interview. Use one of the paintings of Mehmet Ali as a backdrop.

8. Distribute and ask students to fill in Student Handout 5.4.5. Flow Chart of Mehmet Ali’s reforms.

9. Essay topics:

a. Compare the role Mehmet Ali played within the Ottoman Empire to that he played in the Mediterranean world outside of it.

b. Compare Mehmet Ali’s rule with that of an “Enlightened Despot” of Europe, such as Catherine the Great of Russia, or Frederick the Great of Prussia. Can the term “Enlightened Despot” be applied to Mehmet Ali? Why or why not?

c. Read the excerpts from Rifa’a Tahtawi in lesson 5.4.2.. In what ways did Mehmet Ali accomplish the changes Tahtawi proposed?

d. Compare Mehmet Ali to other reformers in Module 5 using lessons 5.5.1-2 and 5.6.1-2.



Joan Brodsky Schur, “Lesson 5.4B: Mehmet Ali and Reforms in Egypt,” Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: Teaching Modules , accessed August 11, 2020,