Colombo, capital of Ceylon, was a busy trading and administrative centre during the VOC era. From Colombo the VOC pursued a policy aimed at spreading the Protestant faith among the Ceylonese population. The availability of a printer's in Colombo that published the Christian scriptures in the local language made it easier to bridge the gap with the local population. Nowhere else in Asia was the VOC's involvement in the administration of a region as long lasting and intensive as it was in Ceylon. The Company was a sovereign power on the island.
Colombo was severely damaged during its conquest by the Company in 1656 and had to be rebuilt. The new town was divided into a fort and an urban section. The urban part of Colombo became a busy multicultural trading centre, where many Dutch settled permanently as free citizens after retiring from the VOC.
Colombo was the central storage depot for cinnamon, Ceylon's most important product. The VOC established an extensive organisation to harvest and transport cinnamon, within which specific tasks were allotted to the various castes in Ceylonese society. The Company also introduced pepper and coffee cultivation to Ceylon. However the cultivation of coffee ended in failure due to poor organisation.
The VOC administration in Ceylon was engaged in a continuous war of attrition with the kingdom of Kandy. This friction came to a head on two occasions: first under Governor Rijcklof van Goens, who aimed to make Ceylon the VOC's central power base in Asia - against the wishes of the king, and indeed against those of Batavia. The second was in 1760, when war broke out between Kandy and the Company. The VOC won this war. Every year delegations from both side visited one another.
Colombo was the capital of Ceylon, a Company government which also covered part of the southern tip of India until 1663. Ceylon was further divided into two departments or 'commandements', Galle and Jaffna. Each was headed by its own commander, subject to the governor in Colombo. In 1795 Ceylon was captured by the English.