Reappropriation, Resistance, and British Autocracy in Sri Lanka, 1820-1850
Cambridge University Press
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Wilson, J. (2016). Reappropriation, Resistance, and British Autocracy in Sri Lanka, 1820-1850. Historical Journal, 60 (1), 47-69. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X16000091
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Cambridge University Press via https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X16000091
Sri Lanka’s kingdom of Kandy fell to the British in 1815 and a rebellion in its name was defeated two years later. Across the next three decades, islanders took up religious ceremonies, legal concepts, and regal traditions formerly linked to Kandy’s king and his court. These reappropriations were responses to efforts by the state to control Sri Lanka: expressions of kingship reassembled in particular ways to resist specific British incursions. Critically, islanders situated these activities in historical, colonial, and global contexts, manipulating transoceanic and imperial networks. Although they invariably failed, episodes of reappropriation bemused colonists with their complexities and globalisms and gradually subverted British autocracy, the form of imperial governance in Sri Lanka. Autocracy then gave way to more regularized modes of rule. Bringing together three separate examples, this paper disputes an important argument about Sri Lanka’s insurgent national character and reveals islanders’ elaborate responses to the incursions of imperialism. More broadly, it suggests that such episodes should be viewed as creative instances of resistance that deployed networks, practices, and ideas and became enmeshed with the development of the state through their influence over colonial governance. This locates aspects of imperial change within the Indian Ocean world.
I would like to thank Sujit Sivasundaram, John Rogers, Jagjeet Lally, Emma Hunter, and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful and invaluable comments on various drafts of this article. I am also grateful for the feedback of the various groups and workshops in Cambridge who read and listened to it. Thanks are also due to the staff of the Asian and African studies reading room at the British Library, who located the map used below.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X16000091
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/253804
Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
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