After repeated requests from Sri Lankan authorities and urged by critical debates about colonial museum collections across the globe, the Dutch government decided in July 2023 to give back six Kandyan artefacts. The decorated cannon, the golden and silver kasthane, the golden pihiya and the two maha thuwakku (wall guns) that returned to Sri Lanka are of outstanding quality. They all originate from the palace in Kandy and were probably among the spoils of war, following the Dutch invasion and destruction of the place in 1765. In 2021 an international interdisciplinary research team investigated their provenance. The remarkable layered history that the research unveiled, forms the starting point of this book.
The objects tell stories of Kandyan craftmanship, courtly politics, gift exchange and violent warfare and reflect histories of cross-cultural interaction and inventive adaptation. Once the objects began to wander through Dutch collections, their provenance was soon forgotten and they became symbols of Dutch national history instead.
Weapons of persuasion informs a broad readership on what the objects tell us about history, but also raises questions about how we relate to the past at present. And it reflects on what may happen to these, and other objects with similar histories, in the future. Weapons of persuasion is a collective project and includes reports from the provenance researchers, interviews with museum directors, as well as essays from historians and practitioners in the field of history and heritage.