Tales of the land: British geography and Kandyan resistance in Sri Lanka, c. 1803-1850.
Modern Asian studies, 41
British expansion in Sri Lanka was halted by the mountains in the centre of the island. The kings of Kandy guarded knowledge about topography and this led in part to the British army’s defeat of 1803. Within the Kandyan kingdom, boundary books and verses provide evidence of a vibrant tradition of oral knowledge about the land, linked with piety and history. When the British took control of the interior in 1815 Governor Barnes urged the necessity of a road to Kandy in order to open up the hills. Surveys were vital to this road and surveying was posited as a rational and heroic science. However, the British continued to rely on local knowledge in planning public works; they surveyed ruined tanks in the north-central provinces. British expansion therefore witnessed both competition and cooperation between different orders of knowledge. There were multiple encounters between knowledge, empire and the land.
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