Richard Simon has produced “A definitive social, cultural and political history of S. Thomas’ College, Sri Lanka”
S. Thomas’ College, founded by the first Anglican Bishop of Colombo in 1851, is arguably the greatest and most influential boys’ school in modern Lankan history. An acknowledged nursery of the country’s elite, this tropical facsimile of an English public school has produced four Prime Ministers and hundreds of other figures of national importance, wielding an enduring influence on the society, culture and politics of the country.
Thomia is a detailed history of S. Thomas’ and its role in the growth of the nation. The story begins fifty years before the school’s foundation, with the beginnings of modern education in British Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known). It ends with the sesquicentennial of the College in 2001. Extensively researched in Lanka and abroad, Thomia is unique in both content and perspective, containing much to interest Thomians as well as general readers with an interest in the history of modern Sri Lanka.
In this book, the story of a great national institution provides a remarkable key to understanding the social, historical and cultural development of Lanka itself. The play of interaction and mutual influence between the College and wider society are explored and examined, frankly and at times controversially. Throughout the book, the focus of the narrative alternates between Thomian and Lankan history, with smooth transitions from one to the other facilitated by a wealth of common subject-matter. A final word is offered on many arguments that have engaged members of the Thomian community and others for generations
Thomia tells many stories: about the ups and downs of politics, of changes in society, morals and fashion, of colonialism and decolonialization, nationalism and patriotism, education and culture, religion and sectarianism, war and peace. Anyone interested in Lankan life and history over the past 150 years will be fascinated by it. But the most important story it tells is that of S. Thomas’ College itself – its fragile beginnings, the dangers that so often beset it, the lives of its inspired founder and its great wardens and teachers, its famous (and at times notorious) alumni, its triumphs and tragedies. It is a book that every Thomian, young and old, will want to read.