Category Archives: British imperialism

The Plantation Economy in British Ceylon: The Downtrodden Indian Tamil Labour and the Dispossessed Kandyan Peasantry

Uditha Devapriya, in SAT MAG” of The Island on September 19 and September 26, 2020.

PREFACE: This essay does not present a complete history of plantation slavery, which anyway has been covered many times before by scholars of repute, including Professor Asoka Bandarage, whose Colonialism in Sri Lanka went through a second edition recently. Rather, it counters Sinhala nationalists and those opposed to Sinhala nationalists who equate the position of African-Americans with that of Tamils and Muslims, indicating a failure to distinguish between minority communities which thrived under conditions of colonialism (and neocolonialism) and those which suffered under those conditions. It also counters certain “Marxist” and rightwing academics who see the plantation system as capitalist, and who, while either sympathising with the plight of Estate Tamils or ignoring them outright, single out Kandyan Sinhalese peasants for what they allege to have been their innate laziness under British colonialism, a myth demolished by S. B. D. de Silva in his underrated and unread magnum opusThe Political Economy of Underdevelopment.

Tea Plantation labour in Ceylon – circa 1890s

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The Joseph Family of British Ceylon: Service to Mankind across the Oceans

Joe Simpson. reproducing his article in http://www.worldgenweb.org/lkawgw/sid.html

This dashing military-style portrait is of Sidney Percival Joseph (1873- 934) who was one of 15 children of Arthur Francis Joseph’s younger brother Eugene (1839-1915) and his wife, Georgiana Jemima (nee Ohlmus) (1848-1906). Sidney would thus have been a nephew of Arthur Francis Joseph (“AFJ”) and Eugenia, and a first cousin of Lawrence Joseph and his brothers. As the two cousins were almost exactly the same age, Sidney and Lawrence were probably childhood friends and remained so after Lawrence Joseph (later Joseph Lawrence) moved permanently to Scotland in the early 1890s.

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How Robert Knox’s Opus took shape in 1681

Anna Winterbottom, in The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 42Issue 4., December 2009 , pp. 515-538 where the title is Producing and using the Historical Relation of Ceylon: Robert Knox, the East India Company and the Royal Society”

Abstract: Robert Knox’s An Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon was produced, published and enlarged through the collaboration of the author with scholars including Robert Hooke and financial support from members of the East India Company. The Relation should be seen in the context of a number of texts collected, translated or commissioned by the East India Company in cooperation with the Royal Society during the late seventeenth century that informed and shaped both European expansion and natural philosophy. As well as circulating between European intellectual centres, often reorientated in the process of translation, these texts served as practical guides across settlements and trading posts abroad. Comparing written accounts with experience led to annotations and borrowings that served as the basis for further writings. Company records and Knox’s own unpublished works reveal how the Relation was used as the basis for bio-prospecting for naturally occurring drugs and food sources and in efforts at agricultural transplantation spanning the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Through the reports of seamen like Knox, such experiments contributed to contemporary theories concerning the effects of latitude on plant life.

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The Democratization Process in Ceylon, 1832-1948

Michael Roberts: “The Democratization Process in Sri Lanka,”  being the text of an Illustrated Lecture on Video presented to The May 18 Memorial Foundation in Korea in early September 2020 …. as part of a series encompassing several countries — organised by Professor Inrae You. The Lecture was, as I understood it, for highschool students.

The democratisation process began in the period of British rule in the 20th century. It would however be unwise to start with the early 20th century. One should look at the prehistory of the island of Ceylon before that. Ceylon, Ceilão, Sihalē had forms of autocratic kingship well before the European colonial powers came to Asia and set up their colonies.

Rajasinghe II of Sihale ruling from Mahanuvara and receiving homage (dakuma) from the Dutch

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Modernist Fundamentalism: Missing the Force of Walk, Talk and Majesty in Sinhaladom

Michael Roberts

Asanga Welikala edited an important book entitled The Republic at Forty in 2012 in which I participated (CPA, 2012). Both Welikala and Roshan de Silva-Wijeyeratne have formidable curriculum-vitae behind them. Their recent intervention in criticism of the Rajapaksa state today[1] also happens to rely heavily on SJ Tambiah’s work on the mandala state,[2] a topic which also informed my concept of the “Asokan Persona,” which is developed within four chapters in my book Exploring Confrontation (1994).

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Canadian Tamil Agitation against Sri Lanka and Canadian Sinhalese

Chandre Dharmawardene, in Island, 26 July 2020, with this title “Ontario’s Bill on Alleged Genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils”

It was interesting to read Lynn Ockersz’ posting in The Island titled “UN Genocide Convention and Social Peace”. What should rise to the top of the minds of most Sri Lankan readers when the word “genocide” is mentioned, is the allegation against the Sri Lankan state. The columnist states that “As is known, some sections have been flinging the allegation of genocide against the Sri Lankan state in matters arising from its 30-year war against the LTTE, but it is clear that, going by the UN definition, the Lankan state has not committed genocide“.

C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council in Sri Lanka, addresses members of the Tamil community in Markham, Ontario, Canada, on January 15, 2017. During his trip to formalize a friendship agreement between the City of Markham and district of Mullaitivu, Northern Province in Sri Lanka Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran spoke about the importance of issues of transitional justice and post-war development to diaspora Tamils in Canada……..Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Pushing the British out of Ceylon, 1918-1956: Issues

Michael Roberts

My essay on “The Basis of British Power” (July 2020) was instigated by articles from Prabath de Silva and Leelananda de Silva on aspects of the Donoughmore Reforms and subsequent developments. Vinod Moonesinghe has seized on secondary dimensions to press some hoary old strands of Trotskyist thinking and to laud (A) the intervention of SWRD Bandaranaike and  the MEP forces for getting rid of British military bases in the 1950s and (B) the radical political messages of the young LSSP politicians who burst onto the scene in the late 1920s and early 1930s.[1] This is linked to the standard Marxist belittling of the achievements of DS Senanayake and associates in the interpretation of the island’s path to independence.

.Vinod RG Senanayake

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Battleships Down: Early Signs in the Decline of British Imperial Power across the Span of the Indian Ocean

Michael Roberts

Prince of Wales (left, front) and Repulse (left, behind) under attack by Japanese aircraft. The destroyer Express in the foreground.

The crew of the sinking Prince of Wales abandoning ship to the destroyer Express. Moments later, the list on Prince of Wales suddenly increased and Express had to withdraw. Observe the barrels of the 5.25 in guns, which were unable to depress low enough to engage attackers due to the list.

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The Rhodes Statue and Battle Lines in Oxford University: Aristocratic Brits face Black Extremists

Anonymous Oriel College Collective …….The letter (below) is a response from [one part of] Oxford University to black students attending as Rhodes Scholars who demand the university removes the statue of Oxford Benefactor, Cecil Rhodes.

Interestingly, Chris Patten (Lord Patten of Barnes), The Chancellor of Oxford University, was on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 on precisely the same topic. The Daily Telegraph headline yesterday was “Oxford will not rewrite history”.  Lord Patten commented: “Education is not indoctrination. Our history is not  a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should  have been according to our contemporary views and prejudice.”

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A Voyage into the National Archives via Experienced Hands Speaking on You Tube

ABSORB THIS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz6zMy9Hf1U&t=924s​

ජාතික ලේඛනාගාරයේ විකාශය හා වටිනාකම 22 June 2020

වර්ෂ 2017 දෙසැම්බර් මස ජාතික ලේඛනාගාරයේ වාචික ඉතිහාසය සුරැකීමේ වැඩසටහන යටතේ, පර්යේෂකයන් සහ ජාතික ලේඛනාරක්ෂක දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ විශ්‍රාමික නිලධාරීන් පිරිසකගේ අත්දැකීම්, පටිගත කරන ලදී. ඒ ඇසුරින් ජාතික ලේඛනාගාරයේ විකාශය සහ එහි වැදගත්කම, ලන්දේසි, බ්‍රිතාන්‍ය සහ නිදහසින් පසු කාල වකවානුවල රාජ්‍ය ලේඛන සහ වෙනත් ලේඛන එකතූන් එනම්, පුවත්පත් එකතූව හා ශ්‍රව්‍ය දෘශ්‍ය ලේඛන, අධිලේඛන පරිශීලනය කළ යුතු ආකාරය, අනාගතයේ දී නව තාක්ෂණය තුළින් ලේඛනාගාරය වෙනස් විය යුතු ආකාරය පිළිබඳ ඔබට ඉතා වැදගත් අදහස් ඇතුළත් සංක්ෂිප්ත වාර්තා වැඩසටහනක් ඉදිරිපත් කරන ලදී….. VIZ  = The Development and Worth of the Department of National Archives

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