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Look Inside Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka

Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka
Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land

Part of University of Cambridge Oriental Publications

  • Date Published: February 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521860093

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  • When the Portuguese arrived on the shores of Sri Lanka in 1506, they opened an era in which religious identity became central to struggles for power on the island. During the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu VII (1521–51), they became the first European empire to dominate Lankan politics. This book sets out to explain the behaviour of the Portuguese and the Sinhalese as their relationship evolved over the century. Topics covered include the nature of Portuguese imperialism and indigenous state power in the earlier decades, the impact of Catholic mission on this Buddhist society and how this was shaped by local principles of caste, land tenure and religious thought, and the issue of identity. It reveals how indigenist, dynastic, and religious loyalties shaped the increasingly violent conflicts of the later decades. The principal concern is the sacred legitimization of kingship: why was Christian monarchy never truly established in Sri Lanka?

    • A rare case-study in English of how early Portuguese imperialism worked in Asia
    • The only academic monograph in English on sixteenth-century Sri Lankan history
    • Explores controversial issues in Asian and Imperial scholarship (such as the nature of state, ethnicity and religious identity) before the modern period or British influence
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka represents a powerful synthesis of primary sources, secondary literature on both early modern Portugal and Sri Lanka, and recent theoretical work on identity informed by incursions into the field of religious anthropology. … The enduring impression after reading this convincingly argued book is that it constitutes not only a coherent study in itself, but also a sort of preliminary exercise for future work with a wider scope and aiming at a more ambitious agenda. Kingship and Conversion goes well beyond its stated limits, and challenges its readers to reflect not only on the history of the 'temporal' and 'spiritual' in Sri Lanka, but on how 'exclusivist understandings of religious practice and identity' became established in early modern Asia and, broadly speaking, in the early modern world as a whole.' Journal of Early Modern History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2008
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521860093
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    Part I. The Temporal:
    1. The Kingdom of Kotte
    2. Portuguese imperialism
    3. Portuguese relations with Kotte
    4. Bhuvanekabahu's sovereignty
    Part II. The Spiritual:
    5. The mission
    6. Missionary mentality
    7. The Buddhism of the Sinhalese
    Part III. The Temporal and the Spiritual:
    8. The religious obligations of kingship
    9. The consequences of royal conversion in Kotte and Sitavaka
    10. Christianity and Buddhism resurgent
    Conclusion: some final thoughts on indigenism, identity and kingship
    Appendix: regnal dates of rulers in Sri Lanka.

  • Author

    Alan Strathern, University of Cambridge
    Alan Strathern is a Research Fellow in History at Clare Hall, Cambridge.

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