THE MALAY WORLD, EXPANDED: The world's first Malay newspaper, Colombo, 1869

Ronit Ricci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Sri Lanka is a land of Asian crossings and contacts, epitomised in the history of the country's Malay community. Within that history the year 1869 was especially momentous. This was when the Suez Canal opened, significantly easing the hajj pilgrimage route from Southeast Asia and resulting in many a pilgrim ship docking at Sri Lanka's shores en route to Mecca. On another, no less revolutionary front, 1869 saw the publication in Colombo of the world's first Malay language newspaper, the Alamat Langkapuri. These developments transformed the relationships Sri Lankan Malays had with communities throughout Southeast Asia and beyond due to the flow - or crossing - of people and information brought about in their wake. Through an exploration of articles, essays and letters appearing in Alamat Langkapuri in 1869-70 I consider the ways ideas about, and attitudes towards travel, mobility, exchange, contact and distance were shifting at the time. Such an analysis opens a window to debates within a trans-local Muslim community whose changing lives were both shaped by the newspaper's introduction and reflected, debated and contested between its pages.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)168-182
Number of pages15
JournalIndonesia and the Malay World
Issue number120
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
∗I am grateful to the Australian Research Council for generously funding the research on which this article is based. I thank all the participants in the ‘Global Conjuctions in the Indian Ocean: Malay World Trajectories’ workshop held in Berlin in 2011 for stimulating comments and conversations. Special thanks to Sumit Mandal, Julia Kuehn and Ross Forman for insightful and constructive feedback on earlier versions of this article, and to Pauline Khng and Laura Noszlopy for their editorial contributions. 1I use Sri Lanka unless specifically addressing the colonial period when it was known as Zeylan (under the Dutch) and Ceylon (under British rule).


  • Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • diaspora
  • newspaper
  • travel


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