Sri Lanka Timeline

This is a student-created timeline of the most important events in Sri Lanka's history. It was created by Fiona O'Halloran.


Portugese Control

1505 - 1660

During this time, the Portugese took control of Ceylon's coast and eventually Ceylon. The Dutch took over from them over a century later.

Dutch Control

1660 - 1796

The Dutch controlled Ceylon for this period of time.

British Control

1796 - 1900

The British took control of Ceylon from the Dutch, who didn't put up much of a fight. By 1802, Ceylon became a crown colony. The British helped unite the island. They brought in poor Tamils from south India and gave them jobs at coffee and tea plantations. This earned them the nickname "plantation Tamils."

Complete Independence

February 4, 1948

Ceylon gained complete independence at this point. They became a parliamentary country, with their first prime minister being D.S. Senanayake of the UNP.

Official Language Sparks Argument


S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became the prime minister. He passed a law that made Sinhala the official language of Ceylon, The Tamils were angry about this, and they clashed against the Sinhalese. An attempt for an agreement was shot down by a Buddhist clergy, the UNP, and Sinhalese nationalists.



S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was assasinated by Sinhalese nationalists. His widow, Sirimavo, became the world's first female prime minister, as a result.

Language Conflict Advances


Dudley Senanayake, the son of the first prime minister, became prime minister for the second time. He tried to make Tamil an official language in the north and east parts of Ceylon, but was blocked by Sinhalese nationalists.

Tension Rises

1970 - 1980

Tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamils continued to escalate. The Tamils felt that they were being treated unfairly by the Sinhalese government. Some wanted a separate state for themselves, while others acted on it with force. This is how the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were formed.

Ceylon Becomes Sri Lanka


Ceylon's name officially changed to Sri Lanka, as we know it today. It means "resplendent land."

Civil War


In that fateful year, violence broke out between Tamil militants and government troops in the north, sparking a civil war. Thousands of Tamils fled to India, their homes and businesses in ruins, their neighbours dead or injured.

Not So Peaceful Peace Treaty


Sri Lanka and India created a peace treaty. It successfully gave Tamils and Muslims in north eastern Sri Lanka some self government. While most of the people went along with this, the LTTE kept fighting. Around this time, the Sinhalese nationalists attacked the government, only to be put down by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.

Language Triumpth


The Tamil language was finally made official.

Citizenship Rights


The plantation Tamils regained the citizenship they had lost so many decades ago.

Another Assasination


The LTTE assassinated President Premadasa, the president of Sri Lanka at the time.

Cease Fire

2002 - 2008

UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe entered office as prime minister in 2001. The next year, he entered a cease fire with the LTTE, lasting until 2008.

Military Triumphs Over LTTE

2008 - May 2009

Thousands of civilians were endangered by the full on war between Sri Lanka's military forces and the LTTE, starting in 2008. It finally ended in May 2009, when the leader of the LTTE was killed. Finally, the fighting ended.