He was able to liberate Mullaitivu and other parts of northern Vanni from Dutch rule. The first Europeans to visit Sri Lanka in modern times were the Portuguese: The Portuguese founded a fort at the port city of Colombo in and gradually extended their control over the coastal areas. In , the Sinhalese moved their capital to the inland city of Kandy , a location more secure against attack from invaders.
Intermittent warfare continued through the 16th century. Many lowland Sinhalese converted to Christianity due to missionary campaigns by the Portuguese while the coastal Moors were religiously persecuted and forced to retreat to the Central highlands. The Buddhist majority disliked the Portuguese occupation and its influences, welcoming any power who might rescue them.
When the Dutch captain Joris van Spilbergen landed in , the king of Kandy appealed to him for help. Dutch Ceylon Rajasinghe II , the king of Kandy, made a treaty with the Dutch in to get rid of the Portuguese who ruled most of the coastal areas of the island. The main conditions of the treaty were that the Dutch were to hand over the coastal areas they had captured to the Kandyan king in return for a Dutch trade monopoly over the island. The agreement was breached by both parties.
The Dutch captured Colombo in and the last Portuguese strongholds near Jaffnapatnam in By they controlled the whole island except the land-locked kingdom of Kandy. The Dutch levied far heavier taxes on the people than the Portuguese had done. Kingdom of Kandy After the invasion of the Portuguese, Konappu Bandara King Vimaladharmasuriya intelligently won the battle and became the first king of the kingdom of Kandy. The monarch ended with the death of the last king, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha in During the Napoleonic Wars , Great Britain, fearing that French control of the Netherlands might deliver Sri Lanka to the French, occupied the coastal areas of the island which they called Ceylon with little difficulty in In , the Treaty of Amiens formally ceded the Dutch part of the island to Britain and it became a crown colony.
Following the suppression of the Uva Rebellion the Kandyan peasantry were stripped of their lands by the Wastelands Ordinance , a modern enclosure movement, and reduced to penury. The British found that the uplands of Sri Lanka were very suitable for coffee, tea and rubber cultivation. By the midth century, Ceylon tea had become a staple of the British market bringing great wealth to a small number of white tea planters.
Nevertheless, the British also introduced democratic elements to Sri Lanka for the first time in its history and the Burghers were given degree of self-government as early as It was not until that constitutional development began, with a partly elected assembly, and not until that elected members outnumbered official appointees.
Universal suffrage was introduced in over the protests of the Sinhalese, Tamil and Burgher elite who objected to the common people being allowed to vote. Sri Lankan independence movement Ceylon National Congress CNC was founded to agitate for greater autonomy, although the party was soon split along ethnic and caste lines.
The CNC did not seek independence or "Swaraj". What may be called the independence movement broke into two streams: These organizations were the first to raise the cry of "Swaraj" "outright independence" following the Indian example when Jawaharlal Nehru , Sarojini Naidu and other Indian leaders visited Ceylon in Perera and Philip Gunawardena , were aided in this struggle by other less radical members like Colvin R.
They also demanded the replacement of English as the official language by Sinhala and Tamil. The Marxist groups were a tiny minority and yet their movement was viewed with great interest by the British administration.
The ineffective attempts to rouse the public against the British Raj in revolt would have led to certain bloodshed and a delay in independence. British state papers released in the s show that the Marxist movement had a very negative impact on the policy makers at the Colonial office.
The Soulbury Commission was the most important result of the agitation for constitutional reform in the s. The Tamil organization was by then led by G. Ponnambalam , who had rejected the "Ceylonese identity".
He attacked the Sinhalese and criticized their historical chronicle known as the Mahavamsa. One such conflict[ specify ] in Navalapitiya led to the first Sinhala-Tamil riot in This "" or "balanced representation" policy became the hall mark of Tamil politics of the time. Ponnambalam also accused the British of having established colonization in "traditional Tamil areas", and having favoured the Buddhists by the Buddhist temporalities act.
The Soulbury Commission rejected the submissions by Ponnambalam and even criticized what they described as their unacceptable communal character[ clarification needed ]. Sinhalese writers pointed to the large immigration of Tamils to the southern urban centers, especially after the opening of the Jaffna-Colombo railway.
Meanwhile, Senanayake, Baron Jayatilleke, Oliver Gunatilleke and others lobbied the Soulbury Commission without confronting them officially. The unofficial submissions contained what was to later become the draft constitution of Senanayake government with the war-time British administration led to the support of Lord Louis Mountbatten.
His dispatches and a telegram to the Colonial office supporting Independence for Ceylon have been cited by historians as having helped the Senanayake government to secure the independence of Sri Lanka. The shrewd cooperation with the British as well as diverting the needs of the war market to Ceylonese markets as a supply point, managed by Oliver Goonatilleke, also led to a very favourable fiscal situation for the newly independent government.
World War II[ edit ] Main article: Sri Lankan opposition to the war led by the Marxist organizations and the leaders of the LSSP pro-independence group were arrested by the Colonial authorities. The Japanese attack led to the flight of Indian merchants, dominant in the Colombo commercial sector, which removed a major political problem facing the Senanayake government.
The movement in Ceylon was minuscule, limited to the English-educated intelligentsia and trade unions, mainly in the urban centers. These groups were led by Robert Gunawardena, Philip's brother.
In stark contrast to this "heroic" but ineffective approach to the war the Senanayake government took advantage to further its rapport with the commanding elite. Oliver Goonatilleka successfully exploited the markets for the country's rubber and other agricultural products to replenish the treasury.
Nonetheless the Sinhalese continued to push for independence and the Sinhalese sovereignty, using the opportunities offered by the war, pushed to establish a special relationship with Britain. Meanwhile, the Marxists, identifying the war as an imperialist sideshow and desiring a proletarian revolution , chose a path of agitation disproportionate to their negligible combat strength and diametrically opposed to the "constitutionalist" approach of Senanayake and other Ethnic Sinhalese leaders.
A small garrison on the Cocos Islands manned by Ceylonese mutinied against British rule. It has been claimed that the LSSP had some hand in the action, though this is far from clear.
Three of the participants were the only British colony subjects to be shot for mutiny during World War II. The constitutionalists led by D. Senanayake succeeded in winning independence. The Soulbury constitution was essentially what Senanayake's board of ministers had drafted in The promise of Dominion status, and independence itself, had been given by the Colonial office. Independence[ edit ] The Sinhalese leader Don Stephen Senanayake left the CNC on the issue of independence, disagreeing with the revised aim of 'the achieving of freedom', although his real reasons were more subtle.
The successful inclusions of the Tamil-communalist leader Ponnambalam, and his Sinhala counterpart Bandaranaike were a remarkable political balancing act by Senanayake. The vacuum in Tamil Nationalist politics, created by Ponnamblam's transition to a moderate, opened the field for the Tamil Arasu Kachchi "Federal party" , a Tamil sovereignty party led by S.
Chelvanaykam who was the lawyer son of a Christian minister. Sri Lanka —present [ edit ].