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Title: The development of a new elite in Ceylon, with special reference to educational and occupational background, 1910-1931
Author: Fernando, P. T. M.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1968
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One of the consequences of British rule in Ceylon was the gradual disintegration of the traditional social order with its structure of authority and influence. In the traditional social system, power and prestige were derived from caste and kinship. The caste system restricted the life chances of individuals to very narrow limits, and the authority of the traditional elite, comprising of 'high caste' royal officials, was theoretically inviolable. But British rule changed all this. The administrative and economic changes introduced in the 19th century, together with English education, offered the individual new avenues for social advancement. Since English was the language of administration, proficiency in English became indispensible for government employment. The English educated 'colonial elite' of government servants (and in the course of time, professional men) acted as intermediaries between the small cadre of British officials who represented the raj in Ceylon and the masses. This new elite who owed their social position mainly to western education, came to eclipse in power and prestige the old nobility. This process of change in native leadership developed gradually but steadily in the 19th century and by the turn of this century the western educated community had emerged as an important element of Ceylonese society. This study shows their development in the period, 1910-1931, primarily, in terms of their growing involvement in public life and the increasing access to political power. In 1910 the western educated had little political influence, but they were considered sufficiently important and distinct to be given separate representation in the Legislative Council. After 1931, with universal franchise, the masses also participated in political activity. But the years in between saw the political scene dominated almost exclusively by the new elite. This period was chosen for study because it was in these two decades that the western educated elite developed into a position of undisputed leadership in the Ceylonese community.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sri Lanka ; Elites ; British Colonial Rule