Book Review-‘Cinnnamon and Elephants: Sri Lanka and the Netherlands from 1600’ by L. Wagenaar

By Guido vun Meersbergen, published November 2020


th Asia, Africa, and South America commissioned by the Rijksmuseum. Cinnamon and Elephants documents the fascinating story of the Dutch East India Company’s presence in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as its nineteenth-century aftermath. The volume is as much an accessible and up-to-date overview of the VOC’s commercial, diplomatic, colonial, religious, and artistic activities in Ceylon in the form of a beautifully produced coffee table book, as a visual tour of the Rijksmuseum’s collections woven together by deeply researched historical narrative. Since many of the book’s high-quality illustrations, around 150 of them, depict items not ordinarily on display, Cinnamon and Elephants quite literally discloses important parts of the museum collections for general study. A leading expert on VOC-era Sri Lanka and former museum curator, it is hard to think of anyone better equipped for this project than Lodewijk Wagenaar. He has written a book that will be useful to academics working on the VOC and Ceylon, while appealing widely to general readers interested in maritime expansion, cross-cultural encounters, and colonial art…

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern) | Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Art & Music | Historic Vessels, Museums & Restoration

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