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Colombo versus Cannanore: Contrasting Structures of Two Colonial Port Cities (1500-1700)

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This article compares the urban structures of early modern Colombo and Cannanore, two South Asian port cities controlled by the Portuguese during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and taken over by the Dutch in 1656 and 1663. It is argued that, whereas Cannanore was an urban complex marked by a set of walls that separated ethnically and religiously distinct neighborhoods, Colombo, less influenced by regulations emanating from Lisbon and Goa and more exposed to local politics in an unusual historical and military context, developed into a more integrated city surrounded by a single external wall. Although, after the Dutch takeover, Cannanore's urban structure did not change much, Colombo's, on the other hand, was entirely transformed. These contrasts draw our attention to the complexity of urban developments in the colonial contexts of South Asia between 1500 and 1700. Cet article compare les structures urbaines, à l'époque moderne, de Colombo et de Cannanore, deux villes portuaires sud-asiatiques contrôlées par les Portugais aux XVIe-XVIIe siècles puis, à partir de 1656 et 1663 respectivement, par les Hollandais. Tandis que Cannanore était un complexe urbain marqué par des murs séparant les uns des autres les quartiers habités par des groupes ethniques et religieux différent, Colombo, moins influencée par les régulations issues de Lisbonne et de Goa et plus exposée aux influences politiques locales dans un contexte historique et militaire particulier, devint une ville plus intégrative encadrée par une seule ligne de remparts. Après la conquête hollandaise, les structures urbaines furent peu altérées à Cannanore, mais entièrement transformée à Colombo en vue d'une organisation ségrégative de l'espace. Ces attitudes contrastées servent à nous alerter sur la complexité des développements urbains dans les contextes coloniaux d'Asie du Sud entre 1500 et 1700.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London

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