1918-1931 History of Ceylon Ceylon 1948-1956

Ceylon 1931-1948

Administration . In 1931 the Donoughmore Constitution was introduced, which foresaw the majority of seats in the new State Council (succeeding the Legislative Council) being contested in elections, based on universal franchise. These elections were boycotted by the JYC, a boycott successful on the Tamil-majority Jaffna peninsula; 1934 by-elections were held in this region. General elections again were held in 1936.
With most of the Straits Settlements falling under Japanese occupation in 1942, the Cocos Islands in that year were laced under the administration of Ceylon; in 1946 they were placed under the administration of Singapore.
The visit of Lord Soulbury to Ceylon in 1945 set in motion a process aiming at the transfer of authority. On Nov. 12th 1947 the British and the Ceylonese governments signed an agreement according to which Ceylon would be given a full responsible government; in December 1947 the British parliament passed the Ceylon Independence Act; on February 10th 1948, Ceylon was granted independence and dominion status within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Political Organizations . In 1935, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, a Trotskist Communist party, was founded, the first Ceylonese political organization to demand the island's independence. Following the end of WW II, the LSSP organized strikes in order to press for independence.

The Economy . The major export product was tea. The Great Depression affected Ceylon; tea production had peaked in 1933 at 115,000 metric tons, sank to 96,000 -99,000 metric tons in 1934 to 1938, then to rise again to an average 120,000 metric tons in the war years and to 137,000 metric tons in 1948.
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 1931 to 1948; total annual export figures, from a low of 189 million Rupees in 1932, averaged 260 million Rupees in 1934-1936, then to rise in through the war years to 680 million in 1944 and on to 1011 million in 1948 (IHS pp.543, 549).
In 1937/1938, state expenses amounted to 7,340,497 Rupees, state revenues to 7,182,033 Rupees.
In 1941, the Ceylon Rupee, while still at par with the Indian Rupee, was declared a separate currency.

Modern Infrastructure . In 1937, Ceylon had a total of 1,530 km of railroads, 28,500 km of roads. In 1938, 20,181 cars, 2,571 buses and 3,924 trucks were registered.
The University College of Ceylon of 1921 was upgraded to the University of Ceylon in 1942. In 1947 Ceylon Airways (soon renamed Air Ceylon) was established.

Social History . In 1931, Ceylon had 5,312,548 inhabitants. Of the 1921 population, 1,928,000 were listed as lowland Sinhalese, 1,089,000 as Kandy Sinhalese, 518,000 as Ceylon Tamils, 603,000 as Indian Tamils, 28,000 as burghers (a Dutch expression refering to Ceylon residents of European descent).

Cultural History . The Ceylon National Olympic Committee was formed in 1937 and recognized by IOC in the same year.

World War II, 1942 to 1945 . During World War II, Ceylon, as featured in the movie "Bridge on the River Kwai", was of major logistical importance for the British. In 1942 the Japanese airforce bombed Colombo and Trincomalee. In 1944 a Japanese submarine was to land four Ceylonese members of Hikari Kikan, trained in Penang, on their native island, with the task of reporting intelligence via radio transmitter. However, they were landed near Madras in southern India, where they were caught and executed by the British. Overall, Ceylon was firmly under British control and far away from military action; from her ports at Colombo and Trincomalee the fleet recapturing Malaya and Singapore from the Japanese in 1945 set out.
The Cocos Islands in 1942 experienced the mutiny of 15 members of the Ceylon Defence Force under Captain G. Fernando; the mutiny was quickly subdued.

Articles National Olympic Committee, from Wikipedia
Timeline Sri Lanka, from BBC News
Four Lankans die in secret 'Independence War', article from Weekend Express, on Ceylon in World War II
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)
Article Donoughmore Constitution, from Wikipedia
Article University of Colombo, from Wikipedia
Article History of the Cocos Islands, from Wikipedia
Article Gratien Fernando, from Wikipedia
Article Lanka Sama Samaja Party, from Wikipedia
Article Air Ceylon, from Wikipedia
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
Hübner's Weltstatistik, 73rd edition, edited by Ernst Rösner, Wien 1939 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 p.168, 1945 pp.169-170, 1946 p.191, 1947 pp.190-191, 1948 pp.179-180 [G]
Article : Ceylon, Dominion of, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1949 pp.154-155 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1932 pp.100-105, 1937 pp.106-112, 1943 pp.93-98 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Americana Annual 1932 pp.147-148, 1933 pp.143-144, 1934 p.137, 1935 p.135, 1936 pp.126-128, 1937 pp.114-115, 1938 p.114, 1939 pp.122-123, 1940 pp.117-118, 1943 pp.138-139, 1944 p.134, 1945 p.146, 1946 pp.151-152, 1947 pp.127-128 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : New International Year Book 1932 p.149, 1933 pp.136-137, 1934 pp.122-123, 1935 pp.126-127, 1938 pp.130-131, 1939 pp.120-121, Events of 1940 pp.115-116, 1941 p.104, 1942 pp.119-120, 1943 p.106, 1944 p.112 [G]
Article : Ceylon, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia 1932 p.115, 1933 p.154, 1934 p.130, 1935 pp.120-121, 1936 p.106, 1937 p.105, 1938 p.107, 1942 p.91, 1943 pp.98-99, 1944 p.70, 1946 p.94 [G]
The Far Frontiers pp.507-523, in : John Gunther, Inside Asia, 1942 War Edition, NY : Harper & Brothers (1938) 1942
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

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