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Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity (Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order) Hardcover – August 1, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0817916442 ISBN-10: 081791644X Edition: 1st

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Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity (Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order) + Copts at the Crossroads: The Challenges of Building Inclusive Democracy in Egypt
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Product Details

  • Series: Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order
  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081791644X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817916442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Samuel Tadros's book, "Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity," is a scholarly yet riveting account of this tragedy. The author takes us on a grim tour through the modern history of Egypt, chronicling the rise and fall of its Coptic minority, the country's largest Christian community."  —Michael J. Totten, Wall Street Journal

"Samuel Tadros, author of the newly published Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity, an account of modern Egyptian history after Napoleon’s 1798 invasion, and one of the most in-depth English-language histories of Egypt’s age-old Christian minority population."  —Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine

"Tadros’s historically informed description of Egypt’s ongoing failure to come to terms with modernity reveals the shallowness of most contemporary American commentary, rooted as it is in the categories of parochial Western modernity." —Paul Marshall, National Review

"The only option, for many, is escape to the West—an option that may end a Christian presence that has endured in Egypt since St. Mark the Evangelist arrived 2000 years ago." —Mark Movsesian,

"By no means does Tadros offer a solely political account. He pays due attention to the modern Coptic culture revival and sketches the genuinely exciting spiritual rebirth of modern times, a phenomenon that clamors to be better known among Western Christians." —Philip Jenkins, Books & Culture

From the Inside Flap

The specifically Egyptian crisis of modernity, understood as a question of the compatibility of Islam with modernity, has resulted in the development of various state and intellectual approaches. Those approaches have shaped the way the Copts—the native Egyptian Christians—were viewed and led to their banishment from the public sphere as a community, though not as individuals. But the failure of liberalism in Egypt did not result in the Copt’s current predicament. Rather, it was the approach that liberalism followed that brought about this dilemma.

In Motherland Lost, Samuel Tadros argues against the dominating narratives that have shaped the understanding of the Coptic predicament--their eternal persecution, from the Roman and Byzantine emperors to the rule of Islam, and the national unity discourse--asserting rather that it is due to the crisis of modernity. The book aims to bridge the gap between two different groups of studies. Although excellent works in the first group tackle the Egyptian crisis of modernity, the Copts are assigned the position of secondary actors that are affected by the overall framework and picture but do not possess an independent agency of their own. The second group contains excellent historical studies of Coptic issues and history but has, for the most part, ignored completely the overall picture of Egypt. This book aims to tie the two groups’ books together. More than a history book, Motherland Lost covers the long history of the Coptic Church and people but does not thoroughly examine that history. Rather, the book approaches those questions with a focus on how they are understood by the various forces and groups in Egypt today. The prospects for Copts in Egypt are limited at best, and a new wave of Coptic immigration has already begun that will not only be a loss to them and their church but a loss to a country and a region of a portion of its identity and history.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I had hard time putting this book down.
Coptic Joe
Yet it is a story that goes back to the first century of the Christian Church and intertwines the history of the church as well as the history of Egypt.
It is well written and holds your interest on every page!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The recent events in Egypt have brought some attention to the Copts, a Christian Orthodox minority that comprises almost 10% to 15% of Egypt's population of around 90+ million.
The Copts are ethnic natives of Egypt, direct descendants of its ancient Pharaonic civilization. Their Christian roots originate since the dawn of Christianity; began when St. Mark the Evangelist, an Apostle of Jesus, preached the gospel and founded the Church of Alexandria in A.D. 42, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. The Coptic Church has been a distinct rite, since the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451; it has its own liturgy and Pope, based in Egypt but has a worldwide following.
"Motherland Lost" is essentially two sections. The first is an overview, but not a detailed history, of the Copts for the last two millennia. It lays out the treatment and persecution of the Copts at the hands of successive conquerors of Egypt; the Romans, the Christian Byzantines, and the Muslims their multiple iterations from the Umayyad, the Abbasid, the Mameluks, the Ottomans until the present day. The Umayyad and their successors imposed heavy taxes (Jizyah) and and treated them as inferior "dhimmis" or a vassal people. It was not until the relatively enlightened rule of Mohamed Ali and his grandson, the Khedive Ismail (who received a European education) that the Jizya tax was abolished in 1863 and Copts were included in the military, judicial and executive branches of the government with full citizenship and political rights.
The British invasion of Egypt in1882, ostensibly to protect the newly built Suez Canal and the lives and interests of European colonialists, did little to improve the lot of the Copts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Ellsworth VINE VOICE on November 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have an abiding interest in the earliest Christian communities, preferring the time before the Apostle Paul radically changed the message of Jesus of Nazareth. I had hoped this book would contain more material about early Coptic Christianity. It doesn't address that concern. The focus of this book seems to be on the Coptic community as an important 'player' over almost 2000 years of Egyptian history. What comes through most tellingly is that the Copts didn't just come from somewhere else to 'land' in Egypt: they are descendants of the very same ancient Egyptians who have always been on the ground. At some point, some Egyptians became Coptic Christians and others chose to follow Mohammed's revelation. The book shows that this history has also been one of cultural challenge and marginalization and persecution. Samuel Tadros argues that Egypt can not find a way forward in its modern composition unless it accepts and even welcomes Coptic participation. His is an argument well worth listening to.

For me, this book is only 'okay' because I was looking for more on the Coptic faith. Tadros work comes close to seeming like a 'lament' by a marginalized group. Of course, he appears to be right in all of the concerns he explores. What seems to be lacking is any strategy for Copts to press their claims in modern Egyptian culture.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Cranow on September 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mother Land lost gives the reader a broad yet very through history of both Egypt
and that of the Coptic Christians who dwell there . The histories appear to be
seperate yet intertwine at certain points.

Coptic history has been filled with sacrifice and martyrdom . Owing to
oppression from first the Catholic Church and then later Islamic fundamentalism
, the Copts have faced a long upward struggle for equality .

Christianity was brought to the city of Alexandria by the apostle Mark. he
stayed with a craftman named Athanius. Athanius and his family would later
become devoted Christian and set up an institution of higher learning. All this
happened during a period of intense turmoil between the Persians and the Romans.

Even when things were settled the Copts did not have an easy time of it. The
Arian schism and the Nestorian schism placed the Coptic church at odds with the
Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantines. This would lead to discrimination and
persecution by the Catholics when they had control over Egypt.

The advent of Islam saw the Arab conquest of Egypt. Some would say that the
Copts welcomed the Arab and others would say that at best they were ambivalent .
Under Islamic rule the Copts were granted a second class status if the Dhimmi.
This arrangement forced them to pay a special tax and limited the jobs
available. They also required permission to build a new Church or renovate and
old one.

Under Arab rule the Coptic church fossilized . They held administrative and
bureaghcratic positions as they were needed to run things . But as time
progressed there were more Muslims to take those positions. The Copts began
losing jobs .
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By Reader on October 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent work that takes you across centuries of Coptic history with the various cultural and political winds that shaped (and continue to shape) the Coptic community in Egypt and eventually, abroad. A great book not just for readers from all walks to understand the persecuted Copts and their historical plight but also for Copts themselves to know their own rich and complex history.
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