Category Archives: Portuguese imperialism

An Exploration: Discerning How a Sinhalayā in Kandyan Times BECAME Sinhala

Michael Roberts, reproducing here an old draft that is entitled “Becoming Sinhala” ***


The scene is somewhere early in 1984 and the location is the building housing the Social Scientists’ Association on the road to Nawala off Narahenpitiya in Colombo. The late Charlie Abeysekera and the late Newton Gunasinghe are reflecting gloomily on the pogrom of July 1983 that had victimised Tamils living in the capital and elsewhere in the south. Charlie is one of the founder members of MERGE and both are among the few personnel in Colombo who had taken an active stand in public forums against the atrocities that had occurred.* Now, in the gathering dusk, Charlie looks at Newton and asks: “what makes you think that you are a Sinhalese?” Newton immediately grasps the serious import and analytical purpose behind this question. He considers the issue gravely before venturing upon an answer.

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Portugal and Sri Lanka: The Historiography Today

Chandra R. de Silva,* whose original title runs thus: “Portugal and Sri Lanka: Recent Trends in Historiography”[1] … an article that was originally published in Re-exploring the Links: History and Constructed Histories between Portugal and Sri Lanka, ed. Jorge Flores, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007, pp. 3-26

In a recent article entitled ‘Theoretical Approaches to Sri Lankan History and the Early Portuguese period,’ Alan Strathern points out that although historical writing in Sri Lanka has become ‘the site of vibrant controversy’ due partly to the ethnic conflict, by and large, it has contributed little to wider debates on post-colonialism and the nature of historical thinking.’[2] I would agree with this broad proposition. What I intend to do in this paper is to extend my gaze beyond the sixteenth century to which Alan consciously limits himself and look critically at the extent to which historical writing in the past half century has enhanced our understanding of the complex connections between Portugal and Sri Lanka in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, … I will concentrate largely on the area of social interaction and leave the other areas — political, economic and cultural – for detailed consideration at a later time.

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