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Lesson 5.5B: Man of Thought and Action


Lesson 5.5B: Man of Thought and Action


Topic 4: Khayr al-Din and Reform in Tunisia


This lesson continues the study of Khayr al-Din’s life and work as a reformer begun in lessons 5.5. Khayr al-Din: Groomed for Reform and 5.2. The Case for Reform (which includes excerpts of Khayr al-Din’s greatest work The Surest Path). In addition this lesson lays the groundwork that enables students to compare reform in Tunisia to that in Egypt and the Ottoman Empire (see Lessons 5.5.4 and Lessons 5.6). In this lesson students analyze twelve primary and secondary sources to evaluate the reform efforts of Khayr al-Din and his legacy.


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


One to two class periods, with more time allotted to some of the Extension Activities.


Standards: National Council for the Social Studies (2010) Theme 6, Learners will be able to:

• Analyze and evaluate conditions, actions and motivations that contribute to conflict and cooperation among groups and nations.

National Standards for History Era 7, 3A The student understands how the Ottoman Empire attempted to meet the challenge of Western military, political, and economic power; 4B Analyze connections between reform movements and industrialization, democratization, and nationalism.

The student will be able to: (EuroClio)

• organise complex historical information in a coherent form

• make comparisons and connections

• interpret and evaluate evidence


• Students will compare Khayr al-Din with other reformers of the 19th century

• They will analyze the effect of Khayr al-Din’s travel and education on his ideas and activities

• They will assess his role as a reformer in Tunisia


• Student Handout 5.5.3 Graphic Organizer: The Roles of Khayr al-Din

• Student Handout 5.5.4 Twelve Primary and Secondary Source Documents

• Student Handout 5.5.5. Graphic Organizer Khayr al-Din’s Travels (optional)

Lesson Plan Text

1. Introduce some preliminary information about the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia’s place within the empire, and the life of Khayr al-Din.

2. Distribute Student Handouts 5.5.3 (graphic organizer) and 5.5.4 (documents) to all students. If you teach in a “laptop school” consider having students access Student Handout 5.5.4 via the Internet instead of hard copy.

3. Divide the class into four or five Teams (Teams A, B, C, D etc.) and implement analysis of the documents as a “jigsaw.”

4. Each student within a Team will specialize in analyzing only three to four documents (as per your division of the documents) in a secondary Close Reading Group. Thus all students assigned to analyze Documents 1,2, and 3 (from Teams A, B, C and D) meet to answer questions and to fill in graphic organizers of those documents only.

5. Teams reconvene and each member reports back to the Team about their documents. Members of the Team add more information onto their Graphic Organizers. At this point the Team considers the last two questions on the Graphic Organizer: Which of Khayr al-Din’s accomplishments were most important in his lifetime; what is his most enduring legacy.

6. Reconvene the entire class to share how each Team has evaluated the accomplishments of Khayr al-Din. Implement some or all of the questions in the Debriefing. Assign Assessment Activities (optional).

7. Debriefing Questions: Share Team assessments on Student Handout 5.3.3 Graphic Organizer.

a. What was the most important accomplishment of Khayr al-Din during his life, and his most important legacy? Did all Teams reach the same conclusions? Assuming they did not, ask Teams to try to convince other Teams that their Team made the best assessment. Ask students to cite sources as they discuss and debate their assessments.

b. Ask students to fill in a Venn Diagram comparing Khayr al-Din to either Mehmet Ali of Egypt or to Sultan Abdulmecid I (if you implemented Lessons 5.4. and 5. 6. respectively).

c. To what world leader would you compare Khayr al-Din in another region of the world during the nineteenth century? d. To what world leader would you compare him in the twentieth or twenty-first century?

8. Extension: Khayr al-Din spent considerable time traveling throughout his life. He visited France for the first time in 1846 (before the revolutions of 1848 swept Europe) and lived in France for four years beginning in 1853. He often visited the Ottoman capital Istanbul (referred to as Constantinople by Europeans), and resided in Istanbul for significant portions of his life. He also visited: Great Britain, Sweden, Prussia, Poland, Holland, Belgium, and Denmark.

9. Distribute Student Handout 5.5.5. Graphic Organizer of Khayr al-Din’s Travels. Ask each student to research one place he visited, and imagine how he crossed the Mediterranean Sea to get there. Students should research that country at a time that Khayr al-Din might have visited to gather enough information to fill in Graphic Organizer 5.5.5.

10. Reconvene the class to discuss questions such as the following: How “modernized” was each place? Was it part of an empire, on its way to nationhood, or a nation-state? Was it an absolute monarchy, a constitutional monarchy or a republic? How industrialized was it in terms of means of production, transportation and communication? What types of social gatherings and cultural events did the elite or middle class attend (such as opera, theater, symposiums, etc.)? How do you think what Khayr al-Din saw shaped his vision for Tunisia and other Ottoman territories?

11. Optional: This activity can be extended to include an imaginary extract from Khayr al-Din’s travelogue, or an imaginary “chapter” in The Surest Path.



Joan Brodsky Schur, “Lesson 5.5B: Man of Thought and Action,” Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: Teaching Modules , accessed September 25, 2020,