Posted By:Nina van Dort
Subject:The VOC and Human Heritage in Sri Lanka: the Dutch Burghers of Ceylon, 1640-2014
Post Date:March 26, 2011 at 00:00:32
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Forum:Sri Lanka Genealogy Forum
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The VOC and Human Heritage in Sri Lanka: the Dutch Burghers of Ceylon, 1640-2014

Exhibition summary

This exhibition will be held in Amsterdam in 2014, featuring the Ceylon Dutch Burgher heritage, which has never been presented before in the Netherlands or in Europe. The presentation is a unique introduction to a distinct society, while paying subtle homage to its ancestral roots, the Dutch and other Europeans who came to Asia during their VOC service.

Given that they belonged to the British Empire during the nineteenth century, some members of the Ceylon Dutch Burgher community left Ceylon after 1850 to work in the Federal States of Malaya [FSM] and Singapore. Information on these immigrant workers and their families has not been thoroughly documented [1850-1941], resulting in a loss of data on many, numbering a few thousand individuals. Some returned to Ceylon, many others dispersed as immigrants around the world, while some found their new home in the FSM,[Malaya ] and in Singapore. Those who remained in Malaya would be referred to later as the “Malayan - Ceylonese Dutch Burghers.”

We hope to conclude a comprehensive study to document this vital sub-group of the Ceylon Dutch Burghers in time for our exhibition.
The Sri Lankan Dutch Burghers, as they are now known in Sri Lanka formerly Ceylon, are currently involved in numerous projects for the less-fortunate children in their country, primarily in the fields of education and child aid. The Exhibition would like to expose these foundations. One of our main target is to assist the Brohier Memorial home for the aged in Colombo 7, This home of the aged is sponsored by the Wolvendaal Dutch Reformed Church in Colombo and financed by the Australian Dutch Burgher unions and Clubs. The Home is in constant need of financial help. We hope to help them financially with the profits from the sales of the Catalogue.
Our exhibition will focus on these projects, to promote their objectives and showcase their efforts.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue. The catalogue is being produced as a collector’s item to generate funds for the renovation of the Colombo Dutch Reformed Wolvendaal Church in Sri Lanka and the above mentioned Brohier Home of the aged , and will seek to include original material that has not been previously published or circulated. The catalogue will also be presented to academic institutions as a reference on the Ceylon Dutch Burghers and their connection to the VOC Dutch rule of Maritime Ceylon.


What do we want to achieve?

1. promote Sri Lankan heritage/history, multi cultures, lifestyle and people

2. rekindle interest of [Ceylon ] Dutch Burghers of their heritage and traditions

3. encourage Dutch Burghers to a renewed interest in conservation of records and relics

4. raise funds to preserve records and archives more effectively

5. Promote The Heritage /history of the Ceylonese Dutch Burghers who went to the Federal States of Malaya [FMS] and Singapore, which has not been thoroughly documented [1865-1941]

6. Promote the Heritage /history on the diversity of the [Ceylon] Sri Lanka Burghers who are today dispersed around the world and residents of the world.

Exhibition Format

1. Early VOC in Sri Lanka
Data drawn from:
• VOC Archives den Haag
• DBU Archives Colombo Sri Lanka
• Sri Lanka Archives, Museums
• Netherlands Museums and Archives
• Historical groups
• KITLV Leyden

2. Post Capitulation period 1796-1815
Data drawn from:

• DBU, Colombo Archives Sri Lanka
• Sri Lanka National Archive and Museums
• Historical groups Nederland’s
• Netherlands Museums and Archives
• British Museum, National Archives
• Library Amsterdam
• CBG Den Haag

3. 19th and 20th Century Burghers
Data drawn from:
• DBU Archives
• Sri Lanka Archives, Museums, Historical groups
• British Museum, Archives, Library
• Private families
• The Ceylonese Dutch Burghers who went to the Federal States of Malaya [FMS] and Singapore, [1865-1941]


• Present heritage and stories of the Dutch Burgher Community of former Ceylon

• Promote Sri Lanka as a historical, heritage and eco tourism destination


1. Descendants of the Dutch Burgher community:

• to reinforce their heritage and historical roots

• generate a stronger sense of community although spread worldwide

• encourage further study and understanding of the past

• Further study on the Ceylon Dutch Burghers 1602 -2014, which is presented in the Exhibition Catalogue which opens new research data presented by our Dutch Historian Drs. C.A. Martijn Maarleveld and Dr. L. Wagnaar and family researches.

2. Academics, historians, sociologists, economists to understand:

• the impact of 17th and 18th Centuries on future centuries and world structures

• sociological implications of the Diaspora from Europe to Sri Lanka and beyond

• importance of 17th Century economic development and worldwide implications

* The Sri Lankan Embassy in Den Haag is an active associate member and Patron for our Project . The Exhibition Team members are further given research privileges’ by the Sri Lankan Heritage Department in Colombo Sri Lanka . The Malaysian Embassy is an associate member of the Exhibition Project. The Sri Lanka Dutch Burgher union is acting partner and associated .

Exhibition Closure and Evaluation

• To promote the Ceylon Dutch Burgher minority of the former Ceylon and the present Sri Lanka, who are relatively unknown in the Netherlands? There is a vast amount of literature on the Dutch and British occupations of Ceylon but almost nothing on the Dutch Burghers who stayed on after the Dutch left in 1796. In the Netherlands, these Dutch Burgher descendants seem to be forgotten. We want to bring them to the attention of the Dutch public.
• To rekindle the sentiments of our fellow Ceylon Dutch Burghers for their heritage and traditions.
• To bring the Dutch Burghers together for a mutual cause and generate a change of attitude towards the upkeep of our heritage.
• To help Sri Lanka Burgher charity Education / organizations receive a better profile to obtain their goals and objectives, enabling them to find more assistance to advance their charity projects.

[Nina van Dort, Amsterdam, 2011]