Dutch Colonial period in Sri Lanka 1658 – 1802


History of Sri Lanka in brief part – 3

Dutch Colonial period 1658 – 1802

1658 the last Portuguese left the island and the beginning of Dutch colonial rule in the island of Sri Lanka. Many Dutch soldiers married the local women and had families, especially in the southern part of the country.  Dutch rulers took the entire spice trade from Muslim traders, since then, Dutch had the monopoly over spice trade in Ceylon. Due to the intermarriages of Sinhalese and Dutch origin of new ethnic group known as “Burgher”.

The conflict between Dutch and Sinhalese king heightened into new level. Dutch East India Company strengthened their army and increase the capabilities compared to Sinhalese forces. Dutch forces are attempting to invade the Kandyan kingdom.

1734, native workers started to strike and fight against the stern rule of Dutch administration. Cinnamon peelers abandoned their jobs stopping the production of cinnamon. Dutch East India Company further strengthened their army, new forces arrived from India.

1741, the arrival of Siamese monks, in order to revive the Buddhism in the island. Many Sinhalese monks were ordained, beginning of new chapter of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Native people are very dissatisfied with the Dutch administration. The beginning of agitation among the local community against the Dutch rulers.

King Kirti Sri tries to revive the Buddhism in the island. Temples that were in dilapidated conditions were renovated, religious ceremonies and festivals were given state patronage. Due to the effort of Kirti Sri the Buddhism is back to its former glory. Fierce battle erupts between Sinhalese forces and Dutch soldiers. Dutch forces are attempting to take the control of Kandyan kingdom of Sri Lanka.

1766, after several siege Dutch forces were able to secure their power over the entire coastal belt of Sri Lanka. The king of Kandy is deprived of access to the outside world. The possibilities to seek foreign aid to fight against the Dutch forces and diplomatic conversations with foreign countries were completely hindered.

1782, the surprise landing of British forces in the port of Trincomalee. English took the control of Trincomalee port and started to engage in spice trade with the King.

1783, French forces took the control of Trincomalee port.

British colonial period 1802 – 1948

1795-1796, the English forces fought against the Dutch army and took over the administration of all militarily and economically important places of the country. Sri Lanka become a British colony, Dutch administration was forced to hand over the areas under their control to the British governor. Administration changed peacefully through an agreement.

1815, King Sri Vikarama Rajasinghe was taken into custody by British and sent on exile to South India. British governor was able to take the control of the last remaining Sinhalese kingdom. 2300 years old Sinhalese monarchy comes to end. The act would have not been possible for British without the help of some upcountry Sinhalese.

1848, native people started to fight against the British administration, attempted to dislodge them from the administration.

1917, the beginning of new chapter of struggle for independence with the Origin of Ceylon-Reform-Liga.

1928, The British appoint the Donoughmore-commission at the heightened struggle for independence. According to the commission country was not ready for the independence.

1945, the status of dominion was demanded by local representative but rejected by the British administration.  Political struggle for independence started after the rejection of dominion status by British administration.

1948, Sri Lanka is given the status of independence but remains in the British Common Wealth countries.


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