Sri Lanka

The deep bay of Trincomalee was an ideal natural harbour and shelter for ships. In 1639 the VOC captured Trincomalee from the Portuguese. The port was strategically important as a base for the fleet and guarding the sea routes. In the 17th century the port was guarded by as many as six forts. Even so, this proved insufficient to repel the French, who attacked in 1672. The port was soon recaptured. Because of its unhealthy climate, Trincomalee was unpopular among Company employees. Ceylon's main product was cinnamon, and small amounts were also harvested at Trincomalee. To harvest the cinnamon, the bark is cut from the tree. It is then dried in the sun and rolled up. The area around Trincomalee also supplied clothes, pearls, wood, and the stimulant areca. During the 17th century the East Indies Council in Batavia debated several times whether to hand Trincomalee over to the king of Kandy. Rijcklof van Goens, governor of Ceylon, opposed this vigorously. He preferred to fortify the harbour, and it was he who increased the number of forts to six. When English competition in the region increased in the late 18th century, the forts were further strengthened. Because of its strategic importance the harbour was a constant centre of political discord.