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August 31, 2015

August 31, 1795: British capture Ceylonese port

On this day in 1795, the British captured the Ceylonese port city of Trincomalee from the Dutch, in part to keep it from falling in the hands of Napoleon.

After France allied with the Americans during the Revolutionary War, the British began hostilities against both the French and the Dutch, who had been trafficking arms. Trincomalee was an important port in the Indian Ocean; the British first captured it from the Dutch in 1782 but were forced to give it back under the Treaty of Paris.

Britain went to war with France again during the French Revolution, this time alongside the Dutch; the French occupied the Dutch Republic in 1794, however, setting up a client state called the Batavian Republic.

To prevent the island from getting into French hands, the crown instructed Lord Hobart, governor of Madras in India, to capture Ceylon. The Batavian Republic surrendered much of the island without a fight, but tried to protect Trincomalee.

The British captured Colombo in February 1796, cementing their possession of the island until 1948, when the country became independent, ultimately changing its name to Sri Lanka in 1972. (Thanks to David for pointing out that it was originally independent as Ceylon.)

Image: French map of the port, 1782. French National Archives via Wikimedia Commons

Which event should I cover on September 7?

    1963: Pro Football Hall of Fame opens (6%, 1 Votes)

    1776: first submarine attack (allegedly) takes place (56%, 9 Votes)

    70: Roman army occupies Jerusalem (38%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

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  1. David permalink

    Nit: it became independent in 1948 as Ceylon, it didn’t change its name to Sti Lanka until 1972.

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