The Sri Lanka Reader

History, Culture, Politics

The Sri Lanka Reader

The World Readers

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Book Pages: 792 Illustrations: 54 illustrations, including 13 in color, 1 map Published: April 2011

Asian Studies > South Asia, General Interest > Travel, History > Asian History

The Sri Lanka Reader is a sweeping introduction to the epic history of the island nation located just off the southern tip of India. The island’s recorded history of more than two and a half millennia encompasses waves of immigration from the South Asian subcontinent, the formation of Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu civilizations, the arrival of Arab Muslim traders, and European colonization by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. Selected texts depict perceptions of the country’s multiple linguistic and religious communities, as well as its political travails after independence in 1948, especially the ethnic violence that recurred from the 1950s until 2009, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated by the Sri Lankan government’s armed forces. This wide-ranging anthology covers the aboriginal Veddhas, the earliest known inhabitants of the island; the Kings of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s last indigenous dynasty; twenty-first-century women who leave the island to work as housemaids in the Middle East; the forty thousand Sri Lankans killed by the tsunami in December 2004; and, through cutting-edge journalism and heart-wrenching poetry, the protracted violence that has scarred the country’s contemporary political history. Along with fifty-four images of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, The Sri Lanka Reader includes more than ninety classic and contemporary texts written by Sri Lankans and foreigners.


“ [A] superb anthology edited by that most perceptive and shrewd observer of Sri Lanka and its complex social, economic and political history, John Clifford Holt. . . . John Holt’s Reader is a stellar collection of wide-ranging essays both scholarly and popular, folklore, poetry and reportage that run into a mammoth 700 plus pages. Nor is this all. The Reader contains 54 images of paintings, sculptures and architecture together with its editor’s suggestions for further reading and, a comprehensive index.” — Tissa Jayatilaka, Sunday Times (Colombo)

“. . . the ideal source book for analytical study of Sri Lanka’s history enlightening the reader as to what caused the present ills.” — Rajitha Weerakoon, Sunday Times (Colombo)

The Sri Lanka Reader is an ambitious volume compiled with dexterity. Holt communicates with captivating force the island’s geopolitical, strategic and historical significance, offering the reader a nuanced introduction to the intrigue and diverse scholarship of this tiny island.” — Nayana Bibile, Asian Studies Review

The Sri Lanka Reader will make a valued gift to those Sri Lankans and others whose interest in the Island is intelligent and thoughtful; going deeper than beautiful tropical pictures (see the book’s cover); description of delicious dishes, and friendly inhabitants. It will be the standard ‘Reader’ on Sri Lanka for many years to come; a work not to be read once and put aside but to be kept, referred to, reflected upon, and used as a starting point for further reading according to one’s (different) interest.” — Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan, Sunday Leader (Columbo)

“[This is a must-have book for all Sri Lankan scholars.” — Victor C. De Munck, Journal of World History

The Sri Lanka Reader helps one in coming to terms with the country’s present, given that its past has, in a very large way, continually cast a shadow on the social and political trails it has followed. Reading the work makes for a clearer comprehension of Sri Lanka, warts and all.” — Syed Badrul Ahsan, Asian Affairs

The Sri Lanka Reader is unprecedented. Never before has there been a book so synoptic in its treatment of Sri Lankan history, politics, and culture. The overall organization, the selections chosen for inclusion, and the introductions to the individual pieces are all of the highest order. This book will be welcomed by specialists in Sri Lankan studies, as well as the more general, educated reader.” — Roger R. Jackson, John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies and Religion, Carleton College

“John Holt’s The Sri Lanka Reader gives many insights into contemporary Sri Lanka while providing an in-depth picture of its rich history. Holt effectively weaves together documents, analytical accounts, photographs, and poetic works to produce a balanced work that is consistent in quality and readability despite accommodating many viewpoints. It is a book that you will return to time and again. It will undoubtedly become the standard collection of documents on Sri Lanka and its history.” — Chandra R. de Silva, author of Sri Lanka: A History


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Price: $34.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John Clifford Holt is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities in Religion and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College. He has written many books, including Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture, The Buddhist Visnu: Religious Transformation, Politics and Culture, and The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka. He has also been awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

I. From Ancient to Early Modern 9

II. The Colonial Encounter 133

Sri Lanka: National Identity and the Impact of Colonialism / K. M. da Silva 135

The Portuguese: An Introduction / Jorge Flores 152

The Dutch: An Introduction 189

The British: An Introduction 230

Kandyan Culture in the Colonial Era: An Introduction 295

Colonial Postscript: The Other Eden / Richard de Zoysa 328

III. Emerging Identities 331

Buddhist Identities: An Introduction 334

Muslim Identities: An Introduction 409

Tamil Identities: An Introduction 458

Christians and Burghers: An Introduction 559

Emergent Perspectives in Modern Art: the '43 Group—Formation of a Sri Lankan Avant-Garde / Larry D. Lutchmansingh 574

IV. Independence, Insurrections, and Social Change 589

V. Political Epilogue 713

Acknowledgment of Copyrights and Sources 735

Suggestions for Further Reading 745

Index 753
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4982-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4967-9
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