Posted by: lrrp | December 24, 2014

Treachery and Ethnicity in Portuguese Representations of Sri Lanka

Thuppahi's Blog

ALAN STRATHERNAlan Strathern a reprint of a chapter in Richard Roque And Kim Wagner (eds.) Engaging Colonial Knowledge, London, Palgrave, 2012, pp. 217-34.

Writing from the imperial capital of Goa in the 1630s, the official chronicler of the Portuguese East, António Bocarro, turned his attention southwards to ‘the enemy that we have in this island of Ceylon’. This bountiful island was the only place in Asia where the Portuguese had launched a successful project of extensive territorial conquest. They were now directly ruling the lowlands and engaged in a ceaseless attempt to defeat the island’s last independent kingdom, the highland bastion of Kandy[i]. Bocarro’s verdict was not flattering: ‘all the Sinhalese are by their nature treacherous and inconstant and for any advantage they would kill their own father’.

He was not only referring to the recalcitrant inhabitants of Kandy but also the lowland people who were considered vassals of the…

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