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Local Politics And Foreign Intrusion

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Chapter Summary

Travellers have always praised Sri Lanka for its physical beauty and its agreeable climate, but this is not what attracted the Portuguese merchants in the beginning of the sixteenth century. They were tempted by the island’s exclusive resources of cinnamon, one of those exotic spices that were increasingly in demand in Europe. They settled on the shore to set up commercial strongholds, but soon got involved in local political conflicts and were drawn inland. As a result, the Portuguese merchants willy nilly acquired governmental responsibilities in the coastal regions of the island. This chapter deals with those early political developments and the political constellation at the time of the Dutch arrival about one hundred fifty years later. Furthermore, it discusses the political organization of the Kandyan Kingdom, the last indigenous Kingdom to survive the Portuguese confrontation and which remained a political factor of great importance on the island until 1815.

Keywords: cinnamon; coastal regions; Dutch; early political developments; Europe; Kandyan Kingdom; local political conflicts; Portuguese merchants; sixteenth century; Sri Lanka



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