History of Ceylon Ceylon 1880-1918

Ceylon 1815-1880

Political Status and Administration . The Congress of Vienna confirmed Britain in her possession of (the coastal regions of) Ceylon, which the British had conquered from the Dutch V.O.C. in 1796. Dutch influence would live on in the community of Burghers - Ceylonese residents of European descent and status, as expressed in their name, and in Roman-Dutch Law, which still forms the foundation of jurisdiction in Sri Lanka today.
In fact, the V.O.C. had only ruled the coastal areas of the island; the interior, the Buddhist Kingdom of Kandy was only subjugated by the British (occupied 1815, and following the Uva Rebellion of 1817 to 1818, annexed in 1818). The seat of the British administration was Colombo. In 1833, a unified administration was introduced, as was a Legislative Council of advisory capacity, consisting of appointed (British) officials and of representatives of the various religious communities. English was declared official language.
Until 1858, Ceylon was administrated as a separate crown colony; after India was transferred by the EIC to the British government, Ceylon was loosely attached to British India.

The Economy . In 1821 the minting of Ceylonese currency, in Rijksdaalders (Rix Dollars) was seized; regulations concerning the usage of Indian Rupees were passed. In 1872, the Indian Rupee formally was declared Ceylonese currency, and placed on a decimal footing.
During the campaign suppressing the Uva Rebellion, the British forces systematically destroyed the irrigation system on which the rice production in the Kingdom of Kandy depended. The Wastelands Ordinnance then deprived the Kandyan peasants of their property rights. The British promoted the development of a plantation economy, based on coffee, coconuts, tobacco. Coffee, introduced in 1826 first went through a boom, but then suffered from disease (1865ff). Tea was first planted in 1845, the area planted with tea soon expanding.
B.R. Mitchell has established a table showeing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. Imports exceeded exports throughout the period from 1825 to 1880; total annual export figures ranged between 2.2 and 3.2 million Rupees in 1825-1830, dropped to 1.3 to 2.0 million in 1831-1835, then rose to 2.9 to 4.6 million Rupees in 1836-1843, further to 6.8 million in 1846, then to sharply rise to 12 to 18 million Rupees in 1848-1852, and further to 17 to 38 million in 1853-1872, then to 47 to 61 million Rupees 1873-1880 (IHS pp.536, 539).

Modern Infrastructure . However, the Ceylon postal service in 1857 began issuing postage stamps.
The first railway in Ceylon began operating in 1864; by 1880 the island's railroad network had reached a total length of 224 km. In 1870 the Ceylon Medical School was established in Colombo; in 1880 it was upgraded to Ceylon Medical College; it was to be absorbed into Ceylon University in 1942.

Social History . While the island's various religious communities were represented in the Legislative Council, the (appointed) representatives were chosen from the wealthy segments of society, the upper castes.
The Wastelands Ordinnance deprived most of the peasants of Ceylon's interior (the former kingdom of Kandy) of their land, allowing for an expansion of the plantation industry, lying at the root of the Matale Rebellion of 1848. In order to work for the country's expanding plantation industry, indentured workers from southeastern India (modern Tamil Nadu) were brought in; they were treated not much better than slaves, housed in line rooms which the Wikipedia (History of Sri Lanka) compares to cattle sheds.

Article Ceylon, from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 edition
Article Ceylon, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908 edition
History of Sri Lanka, from Sri Lanka Web Window; from Wikipedia
History of Ceylon Teas, by Robert Wilson
Ceylon - the Island, by K. Sachithanandan, biased Tamil; has narration of emergence of British provincial administration of Ceylon
Articles Kandyan Wars, Uva Rebellion, from Wikipedia
Brief History of Sri Lanka Railways; The Railways of S.L., from Info Lanka
A Global History of Currencies : Sri Lanka, by B. Taylor
Article Matale Rebellion, from Wikipedia
Article Uva Rebellion, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Sri Lanka, by Ben Cahoon, includes lists of governors of Ceylon and of Kings of Kandy
Historical Population Statistics : Sri Lanka, from Population Statistics
Rare Ceylon Stamps, from Sandafayre Stamp Gallery
Under the Tropical Sun. Lachlan Macquarie & the 73rd Regiment in Sri Lanka 1796-1821, posted by Macqurie Univ. Library
Malte-Brun, Ceylon (1834), posted by Lakdiva
REFERENCE Patrick Peebles, The History of Sri Lanka, Westport CT : Greenwood 2006, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 954.93 P373h
Article : Ceylon, in : Statesman's Year Book 1878 pp.657-661 (on events of 1877) [G]
IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Bsingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 27th 2002, last revised on May 5th 2007

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