Current Status of the Department of History
The Department has two broad specializations, Modern History and Ancient History. Presently, the strength of our permanent academic staff is 13. Our Department strength is as follows. There are 1 Senior Professor, 3 Professors, 4 Senior Lecturers, 3 Lecturers and 3 Probationary Lecturers, three Temporary Assistant Lecturers. Though the History Department of the University of Peradeniya is the only Department that teaches History in both Sinhala and Tamil media, it lacks the sufficient staff to conduct lectures in Tamil. Currently the Department has only one Tamil medium staff member to teach courses in Tamil which is a serious constraint. Thus in order to enhance the productivity of the department at least 6 new cadre positions have to be filled during the next five years time.
Although the Department is confronted with several problems in conducting the lectures, with its limited resources, it has continuously been involved in a teaching quality improvement exercise. There are two main concentrations in this exercise (a) C-1 Form review work-shops before the commencement of every semester and ( b) Development Workshop conducted with the help of retired teachers.
In addition, the Department is also involved in the development of research potential by ways of convening junior staff research forums and getting involved in joint-research projects between senior and junior staff and also in collaborative research projects with other SAARC institutions
Brief History of the Department
History is considered a foundation discipline of the entire Social Sciences in the past. During the University College phase the main focus of the history curriculum was on Medieval and Modern European History. The Department of History was one of the main Departments in the Faculty of Arts in the newly established University of Ceylon with Prof. S.A. Pakeman as the first Professor of History. Other staff members of the Department included J.C. De, W.J.F. La'Brooy and Dr. G.C. Mendis. Even after the establishment of the University of Ceylon there was no substantial deviation from the University College curriculum. The first substantial revision of the undergraduate curriculum in History was carried out in the 1950s under the guidance of Prof. H.C. Ray in the early 1950s. A new curriculum, for General and Special degrees was introduced and Sri Lankan History was made compulsory. The main feature of the curriculum revision in History was the introduction of Western and Eastern history strands for History Special students. This arrangement prevailed for some time with new addition of courses periodically in line with the developments in historical scholarship. The following salient facts can be stated with regards to the progress of the History Department
- Department of History was one of the very strong departments in the Faculty of Arts in the 1950s and 60s both in terms of staff strength and student numbers.
- This situation began to change in the 1970s. The education reforms and introduction of new social studies at the school level adversely affected the teaching of history at the school level.
- The adverse effects of education reforms at the school level initiated in the early 1970’s began to be felt at the university level gradually after 1977. The government at the time paid very scant attention to the teaching of History.
- As a result student numbers in the Department of History declined considerably.
- In this situation, many qualified scholars left Sri Lanka- C. R. de Silva, Michael Roberts, Vijaya Samaraweera, Jayadeva Hettiarachchi. Some others remained in the University system of the island but changed their disciplines and settled in some other disciplinary areas - Dr. W.M. Sirisena and Dr. Thilak Hettiarachchi.
- In the period 1976-1980 the Government froze the cadre positions of the Department of History.
- The impact of the neglect of teaching the History discipline was clearly evident in the 1990s. The reverse trend towards history started during the period. In view of the pressure from many quarters, some corrective measures were taken and the Department was given cadre positions after 15 years only in 1991.
- With the establishment of history as a separate subject in schools, students who offer history are now on the increase. Presently, the Department gets around 100 first year students, including the special intake. The entire undergraduate student strength is around 250. In view of the present tendency at school level, we expect that numbers will increase further in the near future.