Jaffna Protestant Digital Archive

The Tamil Protestant community of the Jaffna peninsula has left an indelible mark on Sri Lanka’s modern history. These sources contribute to how we understand ritual, textual, and embodied Christianity in Sri Lanka and South India. However, a considerable amount of printed and manuscript materials held in private collections were lost to war‐related phenomena.

During Sri Lanka’s British period (1796-1948), the encounter between Jaffna’s Tamil literati and Protestant missionaries from England and the United States produced a deluge of printed material. Missionaries and Tamil scholars debated theology and natural science, created cross-pollinating literary and scholarly communities, and transformed how identity, religiosity, and public debate operated in the region. The materials provide important source material for nineteenth-century Sri Lankan as well as Tamil social, literary, religious, and economic history. They offer a unique, detailed, at times proto-ethnographic record of the region’s transition into modernity.Tamil archival materials on the island have been destroyed, with the 1981 razing of the Jaffna Public Library being the most well-known example. Moreover, environmental conditions further endanger the material. Stemming from a previous pilot survey project in 2015, the team digitised the material previously located. In total, the project digitised 244 files from eight archives. The group of people trained during the previous pilot survey project was employed in this major digitisation project. The results of the project were shared with the National Archives of Sri Lanka.

Project Details

Location: Sri Lanka, Southern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Columbia University Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £30,032 Commencement Date: 09/2017 Project Status: Completed
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