Perpetual Ferment

Popular Revolts in Sri Lanka in the 18th & 19th Centuries

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Popular Revolts in Sri Lanka in the 18th & 19th Centuries

In Sri Lanka the rebellion of 1818 and heroism of Kappitipola and Madugalle, as well as the 1848 rebellion linked with the names of Puran Appu, Gongalegoda Banda and Kadahapola Unnanse, still resonate in popular consciousness. But little has been written about the earlier 18th century revolts of peasants and cinnamon peelers, of the protests against taxes in the early 19th century and the series of conspiracies, revolts, and conflicts which expressed the ‘perpetual ferment’ of the years preceeding the 1848 rebellion. This book unravels these events, and discusses the multi-class, multi-caste bloc of chiefs, bhikkus, peasants, vaddas and pretenders to the throne that challenged the authorities.

Several questions are also raised. Was the resistance that of ‘primitive rebels’ and were some of the rebels ‘social bandits’? What accounts for the absence of peasant rebellion against local landlords? Did outside movements, such as the 1848 revolutions in Europe and resistance to foreign rule in India, influence events in Sri Lanka?

Kumari Jayawardena was formerly Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Colombo. She is the author of Nobodies to Somebodies; Erasure of the Euro-Asian; The Rise of the Labor Movement in Ceylon; Feminism and nationalism in the Third World; and The White Woman’s Other Burden.

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