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The Kandyan Convention 1815: Consolidating the British Empire in Colonial Ceylon

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The Kandyan Convention (1815) was definitive in consolidating British sovereignty over colonial Ceylon. The Convention and later legal instruments reflect a shift in British colonial policy regarding the acquisition of territories of Empire. Previously, British Government policy had favoured indirect rule through mercantile interests. Seizing opportunities provided by Kandyan power struggles, Governor Brownrigg, at the far reaches of Empire, implemented direct British rule. The Convention, however, straddled an emerging sense of 'rights' by making a specific commitment to 'protect' Buddhist faith and authority. The centrality of Buddhism to Sinhalese society made these provisions a powerful inducement for the Kandyan ruling elite. Nevertheless, as subsequent events revealed, the protection of these rights proved to be less important than the establishment of full British colonial control through forceful administrative measures. The Convention was, therefore, an early precursor to the modes of governance pursued by the British Government as its formal Empire expanded over the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2013

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  • Comparative Legal History is an international and comparative review of law and history. Articles will explore both 'internal' legal history (doctrinal and disciplinary developments in the law) and 'external' legal history (legal ideas and institutions in wider contexts). Rooted in the complexity of the various Western legal traditions worldwide, the journal will also investigate other laws and customs from around the globe. Comparisons may be either temporal or geographical and both legal and other law-like normative traditions will be considered. Scholarship on comparative and trans-national historiography, including trans-disciplinary approaches, is particularly welcome. The Editors welcome scholarly submissions in the English language. The optimal length for articles is between 7500 to 15000 words, including footnotes. Shorter submissions will be considered for our 'Short Articles' section. All articles are submitted to double blind peer review. Book reviews will generally range from 1500 to 2500 words. Review articles will also be considered. The journal is published, both online and in print, twice a year, appearing in the spring and the autumn.

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