The civilisational history of Srilanka is more than 2500 years old. In earlier times it was known as Ceylon. Sri Lanka's first settlers were the nomadic Veddahs. They were conquered by the Sinhalese around the 5th or 6th century BC. A number of Sinhalese kingdoms, including Anuradhapura in the north, took root across the island during the 4th century BC. Buddhism was introduced by Mahinda, son of the Indian Mauryan emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd century BC, and it quickly became the established religion and the focus of a strong nationalism. Anuradhapura was established as capital of Sri Lanka in ancient times. Continuous struggle between South Indian kingdoms and Sinhalese kingdom went on for over 1000 years. In 11 century AD, the capital was shifted from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa.
The Portuguese arrived in Colombo in 1505 and gained a monopoly on the invaluable spice trade. By 1597, Potuguese had taken formal control of the island. But they failed to dislodge the powerful Sinhalese kingdom in Kandy. With the help of Dutch the Sinhalese kings were able to expel Portuguese from Sri Lanka in 1658. The Dutch were more interested in trade and profits than in ruling the country. They only half-heartedly resisted when the British arrived in 1796. In 1815 Britain defeated the Sinhalese kingdom of Kandy and became the first European power to rule the entire island. Coffee, tea, cinnamon and coconut plantations sprang up and English was introduced as the national language.
Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 and adopted democratic system of governance. In1972, the country became a republic and adopted Sri Lanka as its official name-hitherto it was known as Ceylon. Shortly after independence an ethnic conflict between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils started. The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the island country and has resulted in the death of thousands of people. Peace talks brokered by Norway resulted in ceasefire in 2001 and currently the peace talks are going on between the two sides.