Colombo History

DECEMBER 20, 2011

Sri Lanka’s financial and commercial capital Colombo is a bustling city full of energy. Settlement on this island began in around 5th or 6th century BC but the island started to serve as a sea port in 5th century AD. Evidences of the Arabs using the coastal reach of Colombo in the 8th century for trading have been discovered but this was rather a period of foreign attacks from South India, and from China later. 

Colombo stepped into a new phase of history in early 16th century when the Portuguese obtained authority over the coastal area and gradually made a colony of the island. However, this process spanned almost a century. When the Portuguese began to manipulate the rulers, Sinhalese King Mayadunne fortified his kingdom Sitawaka forcing the Portuguese to retreat to Colombo where they were being repeatedly attacked by the later kings. It is after the fall of the kingdom that the Portuguese could establish their complete rule making Colombo their capital. 

In mid 17th century, the Dutch gained complete authority over the trade goods by the virtue of a treaty offering to protect the kingship against Portuguese siege. But later they refused to surrender the retrieved lands and took over Colombo. 

Finally the British came into the scene capturing Colombo in the last phase of 18th century. They made Colombo the capital of their crown colony and began to erect civilian structures. Colombo Municipal Council was developed by the British in 1865 for training the local population in self-governance. 

After the independence obtained in 1948, conflict began to intensify between native Sinhalese and the Tamils who were imported in large numbers for working in coffee and tea plantations earlier. Several peace-making initiatives have failed. Though today Colombo is the throbbing heart of this island, the clouds of conflict are still felt. 

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