British Ceylon: Wikis


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British Ceylon
British colony

Flag Coat of arms
God Save The King
Capital Colombo
Language(s) Sinhala, Tamil, & English
Government Constitutional Monarchy
Monarch of Ceylon
 - 1815-1820 George III
 - 1820-1830 George IV
 - 1830-1937 William IV
 - 1837-1901 Victoria
 - 1901-1910 Edward VII
 - 1910-1936 George V
Governor of Ceylon
 - 1798-1805 Frederick North
 - 1805-1811 Thomas Maitland
 - 1812-1820 Robert Brownrigg
 - 1944-1948 Henry Monck-Mason Moore
Historical era New Imperialism
 - Kandyan Convention March 5, 1815 1815
 - Independence February 4, 1948 1948
Currency British Ceylon rupee, Ceylonese rixdollar (1815 - 1828)

British Ceylon refers to the British rule in the island territory known as Sri Lanka since 1798.



From the Dutch to the British

The Batavian government was more popular among the Dutch population than was the prince of Orange. This was apparent during the British-Russian invasion of 1799.

As a French vassal state, the Batavian Republic was an ally of France in its wars against Great Britain. This led to the loss of most of the Dutch colonial empire and a defeat of the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown (Camperduin) in 1797. The collapse of Dutch trade caused a series of economic crises. Only in the second half of the 19th century would Dutch wealth be restored to its previous level.

Soon after Napoleon captured the Netherlands the Prince of Orange became a refugee in London and he wrote off some colonies to the safe custody of Britain. In fact, the French Revolution had a lot of admirers in the rest of the Europe and the Dutch were no exception. The Dutch in Ceylon wanted a republic and they did not want English rule over any of their colonies. The British forced their way into Ceylon without much resistance.



Kandyan Wars

As soon as Britain captured Ceylon from the Dutch they wanted to expand it by making Kandyan Kingdom a protectorate, an offer refused by the King of Kandy. Being a Nayakkar he already had bad experience with ever expanding British Empire. A small country like Holland or Portugal was never a threat to Kandy. But a great power like Britain had enough resources to overwhelm them. The Kandyan aristocracy was not happy with Sri Vikrama, the King of Kandy, and were plotting with the English.

Kandyan Convention

The rule of the king Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was not favored by his chieftains. The king who was of Tamil ancestry faced powerful chieftains and sought cruel measures to repress their popularity with the people. A successful coup was organized by the Sinhala and Tamil chieftains alike in which they accepted the British crown as their new king. This ended the line of the kingdom of Kandy and King Rajasinhe was taken as a prisoner. thought that the English will hand over the power to him.

But the English annexed Ceylon with Madras Presidency for economical and strategical reasons. The Kandyan treaty which was signed after the annexation of Kandy was called Kandyan Convention and consists of the terms under which the Kandyans will live under British rule.

The Buddhist religion was given protection by the Crown and Christianity would not be imposed on the unwilling masses as it happened during Portuguese and Dutch rule. It spelt the end of a most cruel tyrant who tortured Sinhala aristocracy at will in one of the most cruel ways. Kandyan Convention is an important document as some of the chieftains have signed in Tamil showing their Tamil ancestry.

Soon the Kandyans rebelled against the English and waged a guerilla war. It was called the Uva Rebellion and the British carried out the massacre of the 19th Century by wiping out the all able bodied Sinhalese men from the Hill country. Main causes of the rebellion seems to be the loss of power of the Kandyan chieftains.

The Uva Rebellion

It took the ruling families of Kandy less than two years to realise that the authority of the British government was a fundamentally different beast to that of the (deposed) Nayakkar monarchy. Discontent with British activities soon boiled over into open rebellion, commencing in the duchy of Uva in 1817. Generally called the 'Uva Rebellion', it is also known as the Third Kandyan War. In many ways the third name is more appropriate, as the rebellion (which soon developed into a guerilla war of the kind the Kandyans had fought against European powers for some time) was centred on the Kandyan nobility and their unhappiness with developments under British rule since 1815. However it is the last uprising of this kind and Britain's response essentially liquidated the old aristocracy and ensured future rebellions would take on a much more subaltern character.

The British Raj and the support from the Natives

Arms used in the early stages of British rule

The mixed breed population of Ceylon was quite high enough to support the European colonists and the Portuguese and the Dutch offspring of the past 300 years of colonial history was enough to run a stable government. Unlike the previous rulers the British embarked on a plantation programme which brought coffee plantation which was later wiped out by coffee rust. Coffee plants were replaced by tea and rubber plantations. This made Ceylon one of the richest countries in Asia.

The British also brought a million Tamils from Tamil Nadu and made them indentured laborers in the Hill country. This was in addition to the million Tamils already living in the Maritime provinces and another 30, 000 Mappilla Muslims whose mother tongue is Tamil. Thus the seed of ethnic discord was sown in the British Era. The linguistically bipolar island needed a link language and English became universal in Ceylon.

The laying of the railway, the opening of coffee and tea plantations, road development schemes, establishment of hospitals and maternity homes throughout the island, were some of the major works undertaken by the British who ruled Sri Lanka.

British Governors of Ceylon (1796–1948)

Between 1796 and 1948, Ceylon was a British crown colony. Although the British monarch was the head of state, in practice his or her functions were exercised in the colony by the colonial Governor, who acted on instructions from the British government in London.

See also


External links


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