The Adaptable Peasant

Agrarian Society in Western Sri Lanka under Dutch Rule, 1740-1800


This study investigates the structural changes in western Sri Lanka's agrarian society under the administration of the Dutch United East India Company (VOC). In the areas where peasant agriculture was the predominant form of production, changes in the land tenure system paved the way for a modern system of private property relations. A new class differentiation emerged and the indigenous chiefs turned into powerful landowners. In addition to this, new light is shed on the dynamics of caste formation as a result of the early colonial encounter.

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Biographical Note

N. R. Dewasiri (1965), Ph.D. (2007) in History, Leiden University, is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Colombo. His main interests are peasant history in pre-colonial and colonial Sri Lanka and ethnic ideologies in late and post-colonial Sri Lanka.


Those who are interested in the Western colonial intervention in Non-Western societies, in the social and economic history of South Asia and Sri Lanka.

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