This paper examines the encounter between Protestant missionaries and Buddhists in nineteenth century Sri Lanka as a case study that illustrates the importance of situating twentieth century postcolonial inter-faith tensions against their nineteenth century precedents. The central question within this encounter concerns how Buddhists and Christians in nineteenth century Sri Lanka could reach a point where mutual demonization was deemed acceptable and appropriate. This paper argues that the key to this lies in a clash of cosmologies, codes of conduct and affective frameworks, informed by memory and experience, within the power relationships of imperialism. Using these categories, the paper examines what Buddhists and Protestant missionaries brought to their encounter with each other and then surveys the contours of the encounter throughout the century. It concludes that the Protestant missionaries enlivened within Buddhism, rather than created, a competitive paradigm of inter-religious relationships that continued into the postcolonial period.