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John McManners, the author of “Oxford history of Christianity”. appears to have allowed his ‘world expert’ ambitions to get the better of him. The over ambitious scope of the book, and more so, purportedly by one author is a dead give away. But the association with the Oxford press made me give it a try.
However, just reading page 499 to 500 on Sri Lanka fully confirmed my suspicions. Obviously the author has no understanding about Sri Lanka although he has written authoritatively about it. McManners says that the Kandyan kingdom of Sri Lanka was the stronghold of the Govi caste and that ordination in the Buddhist sangha was reserved for that caste. The first statement is an absolutely erroneous. Such a situation didn’t arise even after the creation of a Govigama caste and a ‘British Radala’ pseudo aristocracy by 19th century British administrators. All Sri Lankan castes ordained as Buddhist monks prior to 1764 and it was a coup by a group of Govi monks in 1764 that prevented other castes from ordaining. However this un-Buddhistic aberration lasted only from 1764 to 1800. From 1800 onwards all other castes established numerous Buddhist sects
McManners also says that the converts to Catholicism, Dutch reformed and Anglican Christianity came mainly from the Karava and the Salagama castes. The social conditions of the three different colonial periods (Portuguese, Dutch and British each ruling for approximately 150 years in succession) were vastly different. And similarly the attraction to Christianity during the three colonial periods too were vastly different from McManners’ naively simplistic generalization. McManners even uses inaccurate and derogatory occupational labels to describe the Karava and the Salagama castes and appears to be completely unaware that the Govigama caste and the Radala families of Sri Lanka were formed by natives who had converted to Anglicanism.
A simple Google search would have saved McManners from committing such gaffs into print. After encountering so many glaring errors on just two pages I was disinclined to waste anymore time with John McManners and his hyped title “Oxford history of Christianity”.