Early Academic Endeavours: Michael Roberts & His D. Phil. Dissertation

Michael Roberts

Rather out of the blue, Avishka Mario Seneviratne approached me seeking access to my first academic work , viz., the D. Phil. dissertation in History that I had secured in Oxford in mid-1965. I have a copy and it is possible there is one at Peradeniya University Library, but it is not widely available.




However, I did secure publication in reputed journals for a few articles which are largely amended versions of the material in my dissertation. So, let me list these

1965 The Master-Servant Laws of 1841 and the 1860’s and Immigrant Labour in Ceylon. Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies, 8,1,2 (Jan-Dec), 24-37.

1966 Indian Estate Labour in Ceylon during the Coffee Period II. Indian Economic and Social History Review, 3, 101-136.

1967 The Paddy Lands Irrigation Ordinances and the Revival of Traditional Irrigation Customs, 1856-1871. Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies, 10, 114-130. Reprinted in Irrigation and Agricultural Development in Asia, ed. by E. Walter Coward Jr., Cornell University Press, 1980, pp. 1186-1202.

1968 Grain Taxes in British Ceylon, 1832 to 1878: Problems in the field. Journal of Asian Studies, 27, 10-834.

Again, it is likely that this early research work on my part seeded some of the articles on irrigation policy and the waste lands debate which I presented in Modern Ceylon Studies in the early 1970s or within the History of Ceylon Volume 3 edited by Kingsley de Silva in 1973.

NOW, these ‘notes’ introduce a happy outcome from Avishka’s request. In inquiring from Oxford University sources whether the dissertation was available in digital form for wider access, I received a prompt response from Rob Wilkes in the Bodleian Library as an outcome of the immediate steps taken by Milos Martinov of Merton College (my residential home in Oxford in the years 1962-65)

So: here is the digital version of my dissertation in history, embodying work that was supervised by  Professor Jack Gallagher …. in whose memory this little item is placed in the public realm. 

This item in Thuppahi is also an encomium marking the prompt action taken by Milos of Merton and the Bodleian Library set-up in providing a digital copy which can now be accessed by any avid researchers of the Seneviratne type.

These measures can also serve as an ode to my happy days at Merton and Oxford …. supplemented here by some pictorial illustrations from beyond the working times.

  Michael R at matriculation in September 1962

Michael and the Merton rugger buggers circa 1965




Michael and the Merton cricket squad summer 1965  …. followed by two photographs of Merton College premises




Filed under accountability, architects & architecture, art & allure bewitching, British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, cultural transmission, economic processes, education, heritage, historical interpretation, island economy, land policies, life stories, politIcal discourse, power politics, sri lankan society, teaching profession, transport and communications, unusual people, world events & processes

3 responses to “Early Academic Endeavours: Michael Roberts & His D. Phil. Dissertation

  1. B. A. Hussainmiya

    You are a real icon, Mike

  2. Lam Seneviratne

    Hi Michael,
    You have had a varied and successful life studded with rich memories..

  3. Chandra Maliyadde

    Great Michael.. Congratulations. The memories never fade away.
    Best Wishes and take Care

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