‘Why Disgrace the Commonwealth?’ Ceylonese Communalism, the Search for Global Influence and the Politics of a Transnational Organisation, 1948–65

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This article examines the progress of the commonwealth as a forum for political action by Ceylonese in the first two decades after the nation’s independence by focusing on the debate over Tamil political rights. Significantly, this domestic conflict intensified during a crucial phase in the commonwealth’s transition, from being essentially a members’ club consisting of Britain and the settler dominions to a multilateral organisation led by newly independent African and Asian states. In this ambivalent geopolitical landscape, an emerging small state such as Ceylon sought to use the commonwealth in such a way as to project itself on the world stage, while at the same time some of its citizens adopted the organisation as a focus for liberal causes against the state. In this way, it is argued, the ‘new commonwealth’ was being shaped by postcolonial British legacies of global influence and liberal politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-305
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 3


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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