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Home >Tamils - a Nation without a State> One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century > Sinnappah Arasaratnam

Sinnappah Arasaratnam

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Tamils in South East Asia And Far East - Dr. S. Arasaratnam, 1981

Social and Political Ferment in the Malayan Indian Community: 1945 - 1955

* Ceylon and the Dutch, 1600-1800 : External Influences and Internal Change in Early Modern Sri Lanka (Collected Studies Series, 525)

* Maritime Commerce and English Power : Southeast India, 1750-1800 (South Asian Publications Series, 11)

* Maritime India in the Seventeenth Century

* Masulipatnam and Cambay

* Indians in Malaysia and Singapore

* History, nationalism and nation building : the Asian dilemma

* Merchants, Companies and Commerce on the Coromandel Coast 1650-1740

* Dutch Power in Ceylon, 1658-1687

One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

Sinnappah Arasaratnam
20 March 1930 - 4 October 1998
[Nominated by V.Thangavelu, Canada]

From an Obituary by Associate Professor Don Beer, School of Classics and Ancient History, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia in the University Newsletter, Volume 39 Number 19, 23 October 1998:

"Sinnappah Arasaratnam was born in Navaly, Ceylon, on 20 March 1930. After taking his BA with First Class Honours at the University of Ceylon in 1951, he began the first of two stints lecturing in history at that university, before undertaking doctoral research at the University of London in 1954. Arasa, as he asked to be called, graduated PhD in 1956, returned to the University of Ceylon as a lecturer, and in 1961 took up a lectureship in Indian Studies at the University of Malaya. By 1968 he had risen to the rank of Professor of History there.

In 1972 he was appointed the second professor in the Department of History at the University of New England, and he took up the post in the following year. He retired in March 1995 after 22 years of valuable service.

Arasa was the ideal academic. He was an outstanding scholar. He wrote 15 books and 93 articles/chapters, an astonishing corpus of high-quality work that is the more remarkable for the fact that most of it was produced while he was heavily engaged in other activities. His distinction in this respect was shown by the prestigious international invitations and other honours he received regularly during his lifetime. Of these the most notable was the Smuts Fellowship in Commonwealth Studies, Cambridge, the highest honour available to a scholar in his field, which he held in 1977.

Arasa also took his teaching seriously. He was not flamboyant, but he had a way of inspiring students, who seemed to have responded mainly to his personality - the gentle and dignified manner, the humility with which he carried his immense learning, his lack of pretension, his helpfulness and consideration. Many former students remember him with deep affection and respect.

Arasa made a major contribution to the running of the University. As head of the Department of History he worked very hard to promote consensus and avoid conflict, while consolidating the massive changes of the early 1970s. He was respected and influential in the Faculty of Arts and the University as a whole, being on such key bodies as the Academic Advisory Committee.

He served a long term as chair of the University's Publications Committee. In all these areas he showed not only subtlety and steeliness under pressure but also a thorough commitment to traditional university values.

Arasa effectively began and led the development of Asian studies at UNE, and he played a significant part in the burgeoning of South Asian studies in Australian universities at large. He rescued the South Asian Studies Association from potential collapse with such success that, at the end of his record 12-year term as President, its journal, South Asia, ranked as one of the top three scholarly journals on South Asia in the world.

Most important of all, he brought to the study of South Asia what he called an "indigenous perspective". Following in the footsteps of C.R. Boxer and Holden Furber, his great mentors, he looked at European colonisation of the Indian Ocean region - but from the perspective of the colonised. In this important respect he was the first, and he gathered round him a group of scholars who have carried on this great project.

Arasa had many friends at UNE and in other universities. He was interested in important things, such as history and politics, and, of course, cricket. He always had something thoughtful to say, and he was a good listener. His judgments seemed never to lack balance. His sense of humour and his sense of propriety were both strong. He was a practising Christian, attending the Uniting Church regularly during his time in Armidale, sitting in his accustomed seat in the back row near the window. He was a man of rare quality."

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