ABSTRACT

Heightened attention to the preservation of ancient monuments in Sri Lanka began in the middle 1800s, gaining significant momentum during the 1870s, a formative period for antiquarian and orientalist activities on the island.1 In this chapter I focus on the preservation of ancient Buddhist monuments during the governorship of William (later Sir William) H. Gregory, Governor of Ceylon from 1872 until 1877. The history of preservation work undertaken during Gregory’s tenure offers a telling example of what Michael Hunter has called ‘the element of contingency’ in the history of heritage and preservation.2 Efforts to preserve ancient Buddhist sites on the island during this time were indeed contingent upon rather varied circumstances. To understand the early history of the preservation

*An early version of this chapter was read as a paper at a conference on ‘The International Origins of the Heritage Movement’ held at Boston University under the direction of Melanie Hall. Early research for this chapter was undertaken in part for a Cornell graduate seminar, ‘The Classical in Colonial Asia.’ I would like to acknowledge the stimulating environment created by the seminar students, and express my special thanks to Lawrence Chua and Jonathan Young. I am grateful to the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library at Emory University for permission to reproduce quotations from the Gregory Family Papers, and to Olin Library at Cornell University for preparing the images reproduced here. My thanks also to the Southeast Asia Visions Digital Collection, Cornell University Library, which provided the map included here.