Race, Representation, Identity
by Andrew Elsby
The Burghers of Ceylon traces the origins and history of the mixed-race populations of imperial Ceylon. It explains how, and why, those populations emerged, how they developed, how they were distinguished – and how they distinguished themselves – from the Europeans and from the native populations. It explores the components of burgher identity. The author also provides answers to the following questions. How reliable is the evidence of the Dutch Burgher Union’s genealogies? How prevalent is racial misrepresentation, and what were the motives behind it? How were the mixed-race populations treated by the European colonial powers? What happened to those mixed-race populations when colonial rule ended in 1948? The author’s interest in the burghers of Ceylon came about after his mother’s death, when he discovered she was from a Dutch burgher family in Ceylon. Her mother was half English and half native, and her father, Raoul Frank, was a Dutch burgher descended from a long line of German, French, Dutch, Belgian and British European male ancestors, with native or mixed-race female ancestors from the Dutch and British periods in Ceylon.