A Short history of Lanka

by Humphry William Codrington | 1926 | 48,606 words

Printed Edition 1926 Macmillan and Co., Limited St Martin's Street, London Web Edition 2000 Rhajiv Ratnatunga Pittsburgh. PA USA...

Editors Note

The resplendent and ever beautiful isle we know as Sri Lanka has a rich historical record. The Dipavamsa a Pali chronical in verse was compiled in 4th century A.D. It was the source for the Mahavamsa composed by a Buddhist monk at the Maha Vihara in Anuradhapura around the 6th century A.D. The Pali text of the epic is available today in the form of a commentary written from about the 12th century A.D which continued the record in the Culavamsa till 1815 on Ola manuscripts.

The official translation of the Pali into English is by Wilhelm Geiger of the Mahavamsa in 1912 and Culavamsa in 1930 has over 160,000 words of text in about 960 printed pages. However the history of Lanka spanning over 2500 years is given in only about 250 words in the national website. The World Wide Web Virtual Library summarize it in under 2500 words a large fraction of it being recent history since independence in 1948.

We felt there was an urgent need to post on the world wide web a more detailed history of ancient Lanka. It is useful to select a more readable modern text than the original Mahavamsa but an interpretation old enough to be unbiased by the unfortunate turmoil of the recent past.
In 1928, Wilhelm Geiger, in the forward to his translation of the Culavamsa says we quote:

I owe warm thanks to Mr H. W. Codrington. Himself the greatest authority on the history and mediaval topography of Ceylon, he gave me much help and ready encouragement, as a glance at the notes to my translation will show.

We have therefore selected the Short history of Ceylon by H. W. Codrington, B.A. (Oxon.) F.R.N.S. of the Ceylon Civil Service published in 1926 since it gives the history till 1833 in about 50,000 words. Codrington is better known as the author of the standard monograph on Ceylon Coins and Currency published in 1922. For Ceylon geography written in the 1820's please read 15,500 words from an old Encyclopedia.

In 1962, E. F. C. Ludowyk who published a book with the same title says in his bibliography we quote H. W. Codrington's Short history of Ceylon, not intended as a school text, is a simple unraveling of the main threads of the story up to 1833 He also states I quote "The pioneer work in examining the ancient records from a scientific and critical point of view was G. C. Mendis's The Early History of Ceylon ". In 1932, G. C. Mendis however states in his preface I quote I cannot however, omit to acknowledge the use I have made of Short history of Ceylon by Mr H. W. Codrington ... Both comments imply that Codrington's Short history of Ceylon is just the plain facts as known, without the subjective review.

This E-book was translated to HTML by Rhajiv Ratnatunga in the summer of 2000. The text of the whole 200 page printed book was scanned at 150dpi and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) used to convert it to ASCII text which was then formatted in HTML and edited using EMACS. The original text has only been edited to change the name Ceylon to Lanka as it is called in the ancient Indian Epic the Ramayana and few others anglicized words to current usage like Sinhalese to Sinhala . We have selected Maps from the book and replaced the pictures with color images scanned from various and books and photographs. The TextBridge 9 OCR software didn't do too good a job in recognizing the non-English names. We have spell checked the text and have read through the E-book a number of times to try and correct most of the typographical mistakes made by the OCR software. However this is a particularly difficult task for names the spelling of which is not always obvious. If you stumble upon typographical errors in the text please inform me by E-mail.

We have cross referenced all the rulers mentioned in the text through the List of Sovereigns page. This web site is however still in its infancy but will soon grow with more images. We hope to create web pages giving more information on the individual images like has been done for the coin images which are linked to the Lanka Coins website created by my father.

We hope you enjoy exploring the History of Lanka in the text of this E-book we have made available on the World Wide Web at the Lakdiva site. As far as we know it is first complete E-book on Lankan history to be put online. I hope it will answer all your questions involving this country's unsurpassed ancient technological achievements all the way to the evolution of its current cultural diversity. Please E-mail me any comments and suggestions you may have regarding this web site.

Rhajiv Ratnatunga
2000, July, 6th.

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