New: Centenary of the Introduction of Democracy in India

by R.P.Fernando


This site will highlight personalities, events and facts about the British empire in India and Sri Lanka which are now not well-known.

Dr Rohan Fernando (left), author of this site, has recently written a book on the valuable contribution of British archaeologists and administrators to the revival and preservation of the architectural heritage of Buddhism in India and Sri Lanka. See review here.

More recently, Dr Fernando has commented on the lack of balance in Sathnam Sanghera's new book  "Empireland"

Click HERE to email the author


"Empireland", by Sathnam Sanghera

A critique by Dr. R P Fernando*

Sathnam Sanghera’s book “Empireland” gives an interesting account of how Britain has been transformed by the British Empire.

However, its description of how the colonies were affected is selective. This paper gives a more balanced perspective.

Please read


Colonial nostalgia in ex-colonial countries? Yes! It's real. It exists.
A historical article by Dr. R P Fernando*

In Sri Lanka there is a surprising degree of colonial nostalgia and hotels, schools or industries with a colonial connection frequently emphasise it. This paper highlights recent articles in the Sri Lankan press relating to governance, public services and industry mentioning the colonial link.



Picture: The State Council Secretariat which later housed Sri Lanka's first parliament: The Donoughmore Commission laid the foundation for a solid democratic tradition in Sri Lanka, the first Asian country to enjoy universal adult franchise.


Comments on Michael Portillo's "Empire Journey"

A critique by Dr. R P Fernando*

In the recent series Portillo’s Empire Journey Michael Portillo takes on the task of describing how a small island on the edge of Western Europe ruled the biggest empire in the world. The first programme was devoted to British India. Unfortunately, in the programme locations exemplifying British greed, decadence and oppression were shown in great detail and positive aspects were only mentioned, in passing, in the last two minutes. This paper is intended to give a more thorough account of the lasting legacy of British India. I shall concentrate on education, healthcare, justice, parliamentary democracy, railways and archaeological research. More...

Comments on the Historical Accuracy of the film Viceroy’s House and matters related to Indian Independence

A historical article by Dr. R P Fernando*

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and the release of the film Viceroy’s House. There will, invariably, be renewed discussion on controversial issues relating to Indian independence such as:


  • Was it necessary to partition India?

  • Did Britain do so for its own strategic interests?

  • Could more have been done to contain the violence?

  • Was Lord Mountbatten a hero or a villain?

I will endeavour to address some of these issues with some comments on the historical accuracy of the film and matters related to Indian independence here...



V P Menon - Forgotten Architect of Modern India


A historical article by Dr. R P Fernando*


V P Menon was the Constitutional Adviser to the last three Viceroys during British rule in India. He was the only Indian in Mountbatten’s inner team. Menon’s plan for the partition of India into two Dominions was the one which was eventually adopted. It was Menon who realised the need to get the Princely States to accede to India before the date of independence and that Mountbatten was the ideal person to facilitate this. Following independence, when the communal violence began,  Menon asked Mountbatten to take charge. Menon and Sardar Patel later achieved the full integration of the Indian States. Menon has never received the recognition he deserved for his contributions and this paper is intended to highlight Menon’s role during this crucial period in Indian history and to draw attention to his views on events and personalities.



Sir Robert Chalmers - outstanding scholar of Pali in Sri Lanka

A historical article by Dr. R P Fernando*


Sir Robert Chalmers was the Governor of Ceylon from 1913-1915. Today, he is remembered as being the Governor during the Sinhalese-Muslim riots in 1915 when the colonial authorities over-reacted and imposed martial law for three months, causing considerable trauma to sections of the Sinhalese population. Chalmers is frequently accused as having been anti-Buddhist. He was, in reality, one of the foremost Pali scholars of the time and this article describes his contributions to the study of Buddhist literature.


Comments on the Historical Accuracy of "Indian Summers"

A critique by Dr. R P Fernando*


Though the Indian Summers series are dramas, assertions have been made in interviews with the writer and members of the cast that the events portrayed are based on historical facts. Clearly, a great deal of care had been taken over sets, costumes and locations. The story lines are interesting and the programmes are beautifully filmed. However, the historical context shown is grossly inaccurate and designed to show the British governing classes in the worst possible light.


*Click HERE to email the author directly.