Clearing forests to plant Tea, Late 1800?s Ceylon
Photography By Charles Scowen & Co
The arrival of British in 1796 resulted in expelling Dutch out of the country and in 1815 the British who managed to conquer the kingdom of Kandy became the first European power that ruled the entire island.
British not only took over control of Native Sinhalese people but the change in property laws in 1832 benefited British settlers to also take over most of land ownerships from Natives. Then all the lands have been cleared and replaced with tea and coffee plantations. Coffee was the main crop and the backbone of the country economy but the epidemic during 1870s that affected the coffee crop forced the plantation owners to switch to tea. At the same time, rubber was introduced as a main crop in the island.Network of roads and railways were built to handle the economic activities following the growth of the plantation industry.
The growth of plantation industry required British to import Tamil labors from South India to substitute Sinhalese who were unwilling to work for low wages and poor living conditions. As a result of the increased Tamil migration, the hill-country Sinhalese lost their land to the newcomers and this was the beginning of the continual conflicts between Tamil and Sinhalese which leaded to occasional outbreak of violence over a long period until today.