‘Can historians use WordPress as a research tool? A brief assessment of digital collaboration in ‘French Books on India’

Dr. Ian Magadera, (Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern Languages and Culture, University of Liverpool) conducted a brief discussion on the topic ‘Can Historians Use WordPress as a Research Tool’? on 29th May 2017 at Room 224, Faculty of Arts.

Dr. Magadera spoke about doing historical research in the Digital Age by using the example of the WordPress site ‘French Books on India’, a chronologically organized e-library which he co-founded with Prof. Kate Marsh at the University of Liverpool. Described as an ‘ever expanding e-library’, it lists books from 1531 – 2016 and offers access to hundreds of books written before 1939. While most British Historians view India as an Anglophone space, Magadera explained how India was a space for a number of other European voices.  ‘French Books on India’, emphasizes the Franco-Indian contact of two great civilizations while providing a corrective to the dominant historical narratives.

While this digital bibliography shies away from the Hegelian idea of ‘Absolute Knowledge’ it aims to be historically focused. The listed books are not just about the gaze of the Colonizer, but also about how the Gaze is Returned in the Colonial Encounter, allowing researchers to engage with material which narrates Indian views and perspectives on French narratives about India. Similarly when examining data visualization of French publications on India, the significant surge in books during particular time periods, corresponds to specific events in French History. The year 1886 corresponds to the growth of the French empire in Africa; 1931 was the year of the six month Colonial Exhibition in Paris reputed to have attracted 7-9 million global visitors and 1999/2000 saw an increased focus on the countries of the future, i.e India and China.

A precursor to ‘French Books on India’, is a book by the same name which was published in 2011 and lists books from 1754 – 2010. However, as Madadera pointed out, in the transition from the text to the hypertext, there is no limit to the latter, it is endless and provides valuable source material on debates between historians.

For the digital historian or the digitally aware historian, engagement with new media or social media sites like WordPress enables multiple perspectives, both from above and below.

Recommended Sites




The History Society Trip to Trincomalee: February 2017

The History Society organized a joint excursion for the second, third and fourth year undergraduate students specializing in History. The students visited the Hot Springs of Kinniya, Welgam Vihare, Pigeon Island, Maritime Museum Trincomalee and went on a boat ride around the Trincomalee Harbour.


Guest Lecture: The Role of Muslims in the Economic and Political Realms of Sri Lanka

Dr. Ameer Ali, a lecturer at the School of Management and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia, was invited by the History Society to give a guest lecture on ‘The Role of Muslims in the Economic and Political Realms of Sri Lanka’.

The lecture was held from 2- 4.00pm on the 25th of July 2016 at room 224, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo.

image-0-02-01-1bcdb9f8c244bf87c381e18d766e8287f9dff63ad4041f61f3d6c65dab3fa3be-V (1)image-0-02-01-71151ac3d274b6166e8be00d6a66a660afa719088aabd6cd1a709bbc288efc01-V image-0-02-01-5ce1252ca8522ea06e077f7d2b11f7b1099ecc6f099a754187bfbcb7e554c19c-V image-0-02-01-20ca76746c1dca8c9408b60cae9b7e7a2f630337e40b7cc4f0e42849a032412b-V

History and Community Project Polonnaruwa Workshop – 2016

The Department of History completed its final workshop and field trip of its History and Community Project for 2015/2016 held in Polonnaruwa from the 20th 24th April 2016. Students from the University of Colombo and University of Jaffna critically analyzed historical spaces and the art and architecture of specific sites. They also discussed and questioned the dominance of the single narrative in theory and Historiography.

Resource person include Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, Dr. Janaki Jayawardena, Professor Ananda Tissa Kumara from University of Colombo and Mrs. S. Shanthini, Mr. P. Ahilan, Mr. Wimal Swaminadan from University of Jaffna.

SAM_1789 SAM_1750 SAM_1735 SAM_1723 SAM_1817 SAM_1794 SAM_1780 SAM_1765 SAM_1680 SAM_1672 SAM_1663 SAM_1653 SAM_1648

The Professor Lakshman S. Perera Memorial Lecture

The Professor Lakshman S. Perera Memorial Lecture

On the 17th of March 2016 the Department of History hosted the inaugural Prof. Lakshman S. Perera Memorial Lecture at the Senate Room, College House.

Prof Lakshman S. Perera became a full time staff member of the Department of History of the University of Ceylon, after completing his honours degree in History in 1942. In 1950 he was awarded his Phd, the first person to obtain this degree from the University of Ceylon. This association with the University of Colombo was re-established when a second Arts Faculty was established as an extension of the Faculty of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya in 1963. Sir Nicholas Attygalle, the Vice Chancellor at the time, appointed Prof. LakshmanPerera as the administrative head of the four sub-departments of the Colombo Campus. He served the University of Colombo as the Head of the Department of History and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. His contacts with the University of Ceylon continued until 1973. In 1999 Prof. Perera was honoured by the conferring of the Degree of a Doctorate in Letters (HonorisCausa) by the University of Colombo. In the history of Sri Lankan historiography, Prof. Lakshman S. Perera’s massive work on the ‘Institutions of Ancient Sri Lanka’ is a great scholarly achievement.

The inaugural memorial lecture was delivered by Prof. W.I. Siriweera, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Peradeniya. He spoke on Prof. Lakshman S. Perera’ Contribution to the Study of History’ and his talk included personal reminisces of his friendship and association with the late professor. Dr. NirmaliWijegoonawardena, Head, Department of History gave the welcome speech. The opening remarks were made by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Prof. Lakshman  Dissanayake; Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Athula Ranasinghe, and Emeritus Professor of History, University of Colombo, Prof. Indrani Munasinghe. The former Head of the Department of History, Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri introduced the Keynote Speaker, Prof. W.I Siriweera, and Mrs. Lakshani Fernando, daughter of the late Prof. Lakshman S. Perera, spoke on behalf of the Perera Family. Deborah Philip, an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of History gave the Vote of Thanks.

The event was well attended by former colleagues, students, friends, and family members of the late Professor. The distinguished gathering of guests included former ambassadors, former directors of State Departments, former Vice-Chancellors, former Heads of Department and Senior Professors.

IMG_4946 IMG_4989 IMG_4991 IMG_4993 IMG_4994 IMG_4995 IMG_5021 IMG_5007 IMG_5053 IMG_5022 IMG_5046 IMG_5069 IMG_5087 IMG_5088

Commencement of the Certificate Course in History: 12th March 2016

The Department of History, University of Colombo began the Certificate Course in History on the 12th of March 2016. Fifteen students registered for this course, which for the first time offers external students the option of studying History at the University of Colombo.


IMG_20160312_105012 IMG_20160312_104947 IMG_20160312_104943 IMG_20160312_104910 IMG_20160312_104907

The International Workshop and Conference for Young Historians – 7th, 8th and 9th of December 2015

The Department of History, University of Colombo, in partnership with Facilitating Initiatives for Social Cohesion and Transformation (GIZ-FLICT) and the American Institute for Sri Lanka Studies (AISLS), hosted an inaugural three day residential workshop for young academic historians from a number of leading universities in Sri Lanka.Day 02_a

At the opening ceremony the key note speeches were made by Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Prof. Athula Ranasinghe, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Prof. John D. Rogers, the US Director of AISLS, Johann Peiris, the Programme Coordinator for FLICT and Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, Senior Lecturer of the Department of History.  At the opening ceremony Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo observed that this seminar was important in order to revive interest in learning history, which has been neglected at the cost of creating course modules which concentrate solely on the employability of young graduates. He advocated that universities should not completely deviate from their classical roles as repositories and disseminators of knowledge. The lack of historical memory is parallel to the loss of individual memory which makes history essential for a greater understanding of the traditions, conflicts, ideas and values of the nation.Day 01_session1

Prof. Athula Ranasinghe, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, commended the Department of History at the University of Colombo for teaching an Analytical History programme instead of simply listing out history as a chronological narrative. He noted that the Social Sciences were based on historical references, without which the field would be incomplete. The Dean also spoke about the current concern in higher education which simply focuses on producing employable graduates and tends to neglect the broader themes of good citizenship and critical social skills, which are of equal importance.

The workshop was attended by lecturers from the Universities of Peradeniya, Jaffna, RuhuOpening Ceremony_VCna, Eastern, Rajarata and South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. Foreign and local resource historians and social scientists conducted the workshop and conference. Harini Amarasuriya (Open University of Sri Lanka), Zoltan Biedermann (University of London), Neilesh Bose (University of Victoria), Melia Belli Bose, (University of Texas, Arlington), Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri (University of Colombo), Janaki Jayawardena (University of Colombo), Harshana Rambukwella (Post Graduate Institute of English, Open University of Sri Lanka), Kalyani Ramnath (Princeton University), John D. Rogers (United States Director, AISLS) and Alan Strathern (University of Oxford), presented and led discussions during the workshop.

The workshOpening Ceremony_deanop thematically discussed the nature of the discipline of history, problems with historiography, global and world history and pedagogical approaches to history. Resource persons presented their own research and work on diverse areas within the discipline as well as multi-disciplinary projects that they had undertaken. Topics dealing with Literature and History, Anthropology, Gender and History, Art History and Legal and Social History were covered in the workshop and conference.   Participants also presented research that they had undertaken or hoped to engage with in the future and were thereby able to receive critical feedback and analysis from the resource personal at the workshop.

Contine reading