Sri Lanka’s independence process is generally described as “the conversion of a colony into an independent state by peaceful means”1 or as a “transfer of power” from British administration to the representatives of the new independent state of Ceylon, a phrase that implies considerable continuity with a colonial era that lasted 400 years.2 Portuguese and Dutch rule left an imprint but not as marked as the British (1796-1948), the first power to conquer the entire island. The British attempted to intervene at the level of what Eric Stokes calls “society itself.”3 The exceptional depth of the colonial impact on Ceylon, particularly in the coastal areas, radically modified the social and economic structures of the island. In some respects, the colonial impact oriented the economy outward, overturned traditional streams of trade, and distorted links with India, while introducing into society new elements of heterogeneity: Christianity, the languages of the conqueror, new communities such as the Burghers (mixed European and native descent) and, later, Indian immigrant plantation workers. It also imposed unifying factors: modern modes of communication, a unified administrative system, a common language of

domination, and monetarization of exchanges. However, this depth should not be overestimated: family structures, the caste system, and Buddhism were maintained, especially in the center of the island where foreign domination was resisted for three centuries. Traditions were transformed by reshaping or adapting to features of modernity.4