1880-1918 History of Ceylon Ceylon 1931-1948

Ceylon 1918-1931

The Emergence of Political Organizations . In 1919 the Ceylon National Congress was formed, combining both the Sinhalese and Tamil population elements. It was dominated by the compradore elite opposed to universal franchise; the CNC did not demand political independence.
The Jaffna Youth Congress of 1924 looked upon the Indian National Congress as a role model, demanded self-rule, national (Ceylonese) unity and the abolition of the caste system, was opposed to the sale of opium.

Administration . In 1924 elections to the Legislative Council were held; voters had to be able to speak and write in English and to be 25 years of age and to fulfill property qualifications; one third of the 34 contested seats was allocated to Tamils, two thirds to the Sinhalese. The remaining 15 members of the council were either members ex officio or nominated by the governor.
The British administration, in order to move from British domination to a constitution which would involve the representatives of the Ceylonese population in politics, in 1931 introduced the Donoughmore Constitution, which in turn introduced universal franchise - Ceylon being the first British colony where universal suffrage was introduced. Elections for the Ceylon State Council in 1931, the first based on universal suffrage, were boycotted by the JYC (which demanded immediate home rule), a boycott successful on the Jaffna peninsula.

The Economy . The island economy was largely based on plantations, notably tea plantations. The plantation economy was adversely affected by the Great Depression which began in 1929. B.R. Mitchell has established a table showing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. Exports exceeded imports throughout the period from 1918 to 1931; total annual export figures peaked at 367 million Rupees in 1919, dropped to 268 to 298 million Rupees in 1920-1922, then rose sharply to peak at 532 million Rupees in 1928, gradually declined to reach 423 million Rupees in 1929. During the Great Depression it sharply fell to a low of 189 million Rupees in 1932 (IHS p.543).

Modern Infrastructure . The island railroad network was expanded from a total length of 1,146 km in 1918 to 1,530 km in 1928; from then on it no longer expanded.
In 1921 the University College of Ceylon was established in Colombo; the institution was affiliated to the University of London. Radio broadcasting began in 1924.

Social History . The census of 1921 counted 4.49 million Ceylonese, that of 1931 5,30 million (Tamil plantation workers recruited from the Indian mainland not included in the numbers).

Article Sri Lanka Independence Struggle, from Wikipedia
Was Universal Franchise a Disaster ?, excerpt from T.D.S.A. Disanayake's War and Peace, Vol.4
Chapter 7 : State Councils - Elections and Boycotts, from Sri Lanka - the Untold Story by K.T. Rajasingham (Asia Times Sept. 22th 2001)
Chapter 5 : Political Polarization on Communal Lines, from Sri Lanka - the Untold Story by K.T. Rajasingham (Asia Times Sept. 8th 2001)
Article Donoughmore Constitution, from Wikipedia
The Life and Character of Sir James Peiris (1856-1930), by L.J.M. Cooray
Article University of Colombo, from Wikipedia
History, from Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation
DOCUMENTS Ceylon / Sri Lanka, from World Statesmen, by Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics of Sri Lanka, from Population Statistics, by Jan Lahmeyer
REFERENCE Patrick Peebles, The History of Sri Lanka, Westport CT : Greenwood 2006, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 954.93 P373h
Article : Ceylon, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1919 pp.104-109, 1924 pp.107-112, 1925 pp.108-114, 1926 pp.98-103, 1928 pp.99-105, 1929 pp.99-104 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Americana Annual 1927 p.159, 1928 pp.142-143, 1930 pp.156-157, 1931 pp.180-181 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : New International Year Book 1919 pp.137-138, 1920 pp.124-125, 1921 pp.126-127, 1923 p.127, 1925 pp.131-132, 1928 p.144, 1930 p.145 [G]
IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 27th 2002, last revised on August 25th 2007

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz