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The Sinhalese Contribution to Estate Labour in Ceylon, 1881–1891

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It has become a firmly established belief among economic and labour historians that Sri Lanka's plantation industry rested almost exclusively on imported Tamil labour during the 19th century. Although strong evidence countering this "dualistic" viewpoint has been produced since the late 1970s—especially by Éric Meyer—, the contribution of the local Sinhalese peasantry to estate wage labour remains underestimated or, indeed, largely ignored. This article strives to support Meyer's point by bringing together old and new evidence illustrating the at times substantial Sinhalese participation in plantation wage labour. C'est une croyance bien établie parmi les historiens économiques et du travail que l'industrie de la plantation du Sri Lanka reposait presque exclusivement sur le travail de la main-d'čuvre tamoule pendant le 19e siècle. Bien que des indications fortes contre cette perspective "dualiste" aient été produites depuis les années 70—particulièrement par Éric Meyer—, la contribution de la paysannerie locale cinghalaise au travail salarié dans les plantations reste sous-estimée , ou en grande partie ignorée. Cet article tâche de soutenir l'opinion de Meyer en rassemblant des indications vieilles et nouvelles illustrant la participation cinghalaise parfois substantielle au travail salarié dans les plantations.


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