Everyday Lankan History

About us

About us

This website is an initiative of the historical research project Colonialism Inside Out: everyday experience and plural practice in Dutch Institutions in Sri Lanka 1700 – 1800. It was set up as a collaboration between Leiden University and Radboud University and was based on the Dutch language archives that are kept in the Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo. For more on the project see this page at the Leiden University website.

The project was committed to communicating its research results to a broader audience beyond academia, in the hope of contributing to a rethinking of the 18th century in Sri Lanka. One of its results is this website, focused on telling accessible, personal stories of everyday life in historical Sri Lanka. The project also resulted in a range of academic and popular publications, which can be consulted via the resources tab. 

We intend to expand the website with more stories and information as our research evolves, and we are open to contributions from other scholars.


About our authors

Alicia Schrikker is senior lecturer in colonial and global history at Leiden University and project leader of the Colonialism Inside Out project. She works on various aspects of the history of colonialism in Sri Lanka, as well as Indonesia and the Indian Ocean more broadly. She has published on processes of colonial layering, legal practice and slavery. Together with Nira Wickramasinghe she recently published the edited volume Being a slave. Histories and legacies on European slavery in the Indian Ocean.
In 2021 she was invited as provenance researcher in the PPROCE project to investigate the histories of Six Kandyan objects in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, together with colleagues from Sri Lanka. Since 2022 she is member of the Dutch advise committee on the return of objects from colonial contexts.
Contact Alicia at a.f.schrikker@hum.leidenuniv.nl 

Nadeera Rupesinghe is the Director General of the Department of National Archives in Sri Lanka since August 2017. She studied history at the University of Colombo before obtaining scholarships and funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for postgraduate studies at Leiden University. She was a Teaching and Research Assistant (AIO) at Leiden University from 2010 to 2013 and received her PhD from Leiden University in 2016. As a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University, Rupesinghe was a part of the Colonialism Inside Out project which received a competitive grant from the NWO. Her book, Lawmaking in Dutch Sri Lanka: Navigating Pluralities in a Colonial Society was published by Leiden University Press in 2023. She serves on the advisory board of the indexed peer-reviewed journal Itinerario and was awarded the Van Caenegam Prize 2020 for a young legal historian awarded by the European Society for Comparative Legal History, for the article in Comparative Legal History titled ‘Do you know the ninth commandment? Tensions of the oath in Dutch Colonial Sri Lanka’.

Dries Lyna is a social and cultural historian of the 17th and 18th centuries, with special interest in VOC settlements across the Indian Ocean World. He was trained at the Centre for Urban History (University of Antwerp), and went to Duke University and the Getty Research Institute as Fulbright Scholar. He has been a guest lecturer at the Free University of Brussels, the Institut d’Etudes Supérieures des Arts in Paris, and Visiting Scholar at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His current research interest lies in writing social histories of colonial cities, with a focus on eighteenth-century Sri Lanka and South Africa. As part of the new group project ‘Forgotten Lineages‘ under PI Nira Wickramasinghe (Leiden University) he will study family histories of formerly enslaved under Dutch and British rule in Sri Lanka and South Africa. Contact Dries at dries.lyna@ru.nl.

Luc Bulten is a lecturer in social and economic history at Radboud University Nijmegen. He is especially interested in cross-cultural encounters and interactions between local communities, migratory social groups, and colonial institutions in early modern South and Southeast Asia. He recently completed his PhD-thesis which was part of the Colonialism Inside Out project and focused on land and population registration from the perspective of the ‘registered’ Lankan families. From September 2023 onwards, Luc will continue his studies as a postdoctoral researcher in the ‘Exploiting the Empires of Others’ project led by professor Cátia Antunes (Leiden University). In his sub-project Luc will be focusing on the business practices and social composition of several different Asian and Eurasian entrepreneurial families active in Dutch and British Melaka and Malacca straight (1750-1850).

Bente de Leede is a PhD-candidate at Leiden University. As part of the Colonialism Inside Out project she researches the interaction of Sri Lankan people with the Dutch Reformed Church under the rule of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). She analyses this interaction, and its consequences on everyday life and family relations, by focusing in on the different stages of life and its corresponding rites of passage. In 2023 Bente co-edited the volume Kerk, kolonialisme en slavernij. Verhalen van een vervlochten geschiedenis on the role of the Dutch church in colonialism and slavery, aimed at a wider Dutch audience. Since 2022, Bente works as a historical consultant and researcher at Nachtzon Media.