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History of Sri Lanka

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are debatable. While some historians trace the origins of the Sinhalese back to some 25,000 years, continuous written history of Sri Lanka starts from the 6th Century BC.

Most historians believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later and spread rapidly. Buddhism and a sophisticated system of irrigation became the pillars of classical Sinhalese civilization (200 BC-1200 AD) that flourished in the north-central part of the island. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

The island's contact with the outside world began early. Roman sailors called the island Taprobane. Arab traders knew it as "Serendip," the root of the word "serendipity." Beginning in 1505, Portuguese traders, in search of cinnamon and other spices, seized the island's coastal areas and spread Catholicism. The Dutch supplanted the Portuguese in 1658. Although the British ejected the Dutch in 1796, Dutch law remains an important part of Sri Lankan jurisprudence. In 1815, the British defeated the king of Kandy[?], last of the native rulers, and created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. They established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber, and coconuts. In 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited self-rule and a universal franchise. Ceylon became independent on February 4, 1948 and its name was changed on May 22, 1972 and a new constitution was adopted. Demand for a separate ethnic Tamil state (Tamil Eelam) in the North and East of Sri Lanka by Tamil Tigers resulted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in fighting between government forces and Tamil Tigers.



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