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Lawmaking in Dutch Sri Lanka

Navigating Pluralities in a Colonial Society

Lived experiences of the law in colonial Sri Lanka.

Dutch and Sinhalese law coexisted in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Sri Lanka. A dual forum called the Landraad empowered colonial justices to defer to either imperial or indigenous law on issues ranging from standards of evidence to inheritance rights. So, while major judicial decisions were often skewed toward assimilation, everyday life in the colony was marked by a cultural multiplicity. In Navigating Pluralities, Nadeera Rupesinghe focuses on these day-to-day experiences of the law in colonial Sri Lanka, discovering how such plural practices affected both colonized and colonizers in surprising ways.

316 pages | 9 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

Colonial and Global History through Dutch Sources

History: Asian History

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“I am dazzled by the quality of the archival work."

Paul Halliday, University of Virginia

“This book tackles an important and neglected field of interest not only to scholars of Sri Lanka but also to legal historians of the early modern world and to those interested in empires in Asia. With gripping detail and dense attention to individuals and places, Rupesinghe recovers how local communities faced, moulded and changed the law in Galle, in southern Lanka. The situational judging and the specific circumstances of land, family and religion which framed this encounter between subjects and the law is handled with great sensitivity and nuance. A mature piece of archival work which will become a cornerstone in the growing literature on Dutch Sri Lanka.”

Sujit Sivasundaram, University of Cambridge

“This is a dense and fine grained book that casts new light on the workings of society in the maritime province of Sri Lanka under VOC rule. From personal snippets, Nadeera Rupesinghe's  work gestures toward a new understanding of the interfaces between law-making and identity formation but also of the spaces of local agency, the ruses of the people to subvert a dominant structure. She has written a pioneering work in the field of Sri Lankan Dutch history."

Nira Wickramasinghe, Leiden University

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