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Kanapathypillai, Vamadeva (1969) Dutch Rule in Maritime Ceylon 1766-1796. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study seeks to trace the fortunes of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) in maritime Ceylon from 1766 to 1796. With the conclusion of the manifestly advantageous treaty of 1766, the Company may be said to have reached the zenith of its power in Ceylon. But the Dutch achieved this success, at a time, which has been aptly described by Professor Boxer in a recent study as the 'Periwig period' of their history. This was certainly true of the VOC in the second half of the eighteenth century. It had lost its naval power and was financially weak. Exactly at this juncture the British were achieving a position of dominance with the same aggressive show of self confidence that marked the activities of the Dutch in the seventeenth, century. It is with the background of these changing conditions that the Company attempted to reap the fruits of its hard won triumph in the island - but without much success. The refusal of the Kandyan kingdom to accept the treaty as final proved to be a continuing source of frustration. This coupled with suspicions of British intentions, provided an added cause for anxiety. The fourth Anglo-Dutch war confirmed these fears. While the Dutch remained mere spectators, the British quickly overran the former's possessions in the mainland and even took the valuable harbour of Trincomalee. It was left to the French to thwart complete British success. The treaty of Paris of 1784 gave the VOC a rather dubious lease of life in Ceylon for another decade. Amidst these tribulations, the period under survey was not without its positive achievements. A cadastral survey of the Company's territories in the island was successfully completed. Cinnamon was made a plantation crop, bringing to an end the wasteful and impolitic measures that kept vast extents of land idle on the pretext that they were cinnamon growing lands. Cultivation of pepper, coffee and cardomom was renewed. Financial adversity necessitated the promotion of long neglected subsistence agriculture. But the VOC did not survive long to enjoy the fruits of these undertakings. Events in Europe precipitated the demise of its relations with Ceylon. With the establishment of the Batavian republic in the wake of the French revolutionary wars, the British took prompt measures to forestall French attempts to take over the overseas possessions of the Dutch. On l4 February, 1796 - exactly thirty years to the day after the signing of the treaty of 1766 - the Dutch were presented with the British terms of capitulation. The formal surrender followed two days later and John Company took over the territories of Jan Compagnie.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:20

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