Paul Sedra

Associate Professor
Office: AQ 6226
Telephone: 778-782-7626
Personal website:
Twitter handle: @sedgate



Paul Sedra is a specialist in modern Egyptian history and Christian-Muslim relations. He has taught at Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto, and received his doctorate from New York University in January 2006. His most recent book, From Mission to Modernity: Evangelicals, Reformers and Education in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, is published by I.B. Tauris.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa in international affairs at Princeton University, Sedra was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship for study towards a Master's degree at Oxford University. His thesis examined the activities of nineteenth-century Anglican missionaries in Cairo. He returned to the United States to pursue his PhD in NYU's pioneering joint program in History and Middle Eastern studies.

Sedra is a prolific commentator on contemporary Egypt, Christian-Muslim relations, Canadian policy in the Middle East, and Middle East politics generally. His op-eds appear regularly in Mada Masr and Jadaliyya, and he has furnished analysis to such media outlets as Al-Jazeera English, CTV, CBC Radio and Television, the Associated Press, and The Globe and Mail.

Research Interests

The principal focus of Sedra’s research is the social and cultural history of the modern Middle East. In his first book, he examined the connections between education and the rise of the modern state in nineteenth-century Egypt. To this end, the book chronicled moments of contestation as to both the methods and the purposes of education — contestation between Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries, Ottoman and Egyptian officials, Coptic priests and Muslim reformers.

Sedra is now working on a second book – a history of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community in the modern period – that draws upon archives only recently released to the public.

In a different vein, given a longstanding interest in the popular culture of the Nasser era, Sedra is undertaking both teaching and research in the history of Egyptian cinema – specifically, the film culture of the 1950s and 1960s. He is focused on exploring the images of village poverty, colonial violence, family discord, and the subjugation of women that pervade such films. The aim of the project is to pursue the possible links between these images and such state priorities as eradicating 'backwardness' and 'superstition,' pacifying the 'social body,' and consolidating 'modern' forms of subjectivity among them, the companionate spouse, the productive worker, and the patriotic citizen.



  • “Exposure to the Eyes of God: Monitorial Schools and Evangelicals in Early Nineteenth-Century England,” Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, first published on 06 May 2010 (iFirst), 1-19.
  • “Writing the History of the Modern Copts: From Victims and Symbols to Actors,” History Compass 7, 3 (2009), 1049-1063.
  • “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.
  • “Imagining an Imperial Race: Egyptology in the Service of Empire,” Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 24, 1 (2004), 249-259.
  • “Class Cleavages and Ethnic Conflict: Coptic Christian Communities in Modern Egyptian Politics,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 10, 2 (July 1999), 219-235.

Book Chapters

  • “The Patriarch and His Project: Cultivating a Coptic Community in Nineteenth-Century Egypt,” in Ramez Boutros, ed. Journal of the Canadian Society for Coptic Studies 1 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2010), 109-120.
  • “Missionaries, Peasants, and the Protection Problem: Negotiating Coptic Reform in Nineteenth-Century Egypt,” in Abbas Amanat and Magnus T. Bernhardsson, eds. US-Middle East Historical Encounters (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 2007).
  • “Schooling for a Modern Coptic Subjectivity in Nineteenth Century Egypt,” in Nabil Boudraa and Joseph Krause, eds. North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), 196-213.
  • “The Journals of an Ottoman Student in England, July 1829 to January 1830,” in Camron Michael Amin, Benjamin C. Fortna, and Elizabeth Frierson, eds. The Modern Middle East: A Sourcebook for History (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), 401-405.
  • “Observing Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha and His Administration at Work, 1843-1846,” in Camron Michael Amin, Benjamin C. Fortna, and Elizabeth Frierson, eds. The Modern Middle East: A Sourcebook for History (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), 39-42.
  • “Modernity’s Mission: Evangelical Efforts to Discipline the Nineteenth-Century Coptic Community,” in Eleanor H. Tejirian and Reeva Spector Simon, eds. Altruism and Imperialism: The Western Religious and Cultural Missionary Enterprise in the Middle East, Middle East Institute Occasional Papers 4 (New York, New York: Columbia University Middle East Institute, 2002), 208-235.
  • “Ecclesiastical Warfare: Patriarch, Presbyterian, and Peasant in Nineteenth-Century Asyut,” in Abbas Amanat and Magnus T. Bernhardsson, eds. The United States and the Middle East: Cultural Encounters, YCIAS Working Paper Series Vol. V (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 2002), 290-314.

Graduate Supervision

Current Graduate Students: