John Lieder and his Mission in Egypt: The Evangelical Ethos at Work Among Nineteenth-Century Copts

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Paul Sedra, “John Lieder and his Mission in Egypt: The Evangelical Ethos at Work Among Nineteenth-Century Copts,” Journal of Religious History 28, 3 (October 2004), 219-239.

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Coptic Orthodox Church
John Lieder
Church Missionary Society

The English Church Missionary Society (CMS) dispatched a contingent of missionaries to Egypt in 1825. This article analyses the methods and impact of that contingent. The schools that the CMS missionaries introduced are cast not as vehicles of enlightenment — as is frequently the case in mission historiography — but as technologies of power. Specifically, the article recounts how the head of the mission, the Reverend John Lieder, deployed Lancaster schools among the Coptic Christians of Cairo to effect not merely a spiritual, but further, a cultural conversion of this Orthodox community. Lieder, his predecessors, and his contemporaries in the Mediterranean field sought to instil in the Copts the “evangelical ethos” of industry, discipline, and order. The article links this CMS project of cultural conversion to the process of state-building in Egypt. Indeed, Lieder was a pioneer purveyor of technologies of power that would prove indispensable to late-nineteenth-century elites in their efforts to produce, in the subaltern strata of Egyptian society, industrious and disciplined political subjects resigned to their lowly positions in the Egyptian social order.

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