A land bridge connected India and Sri Lanka until around 5000 BCE, allowing different groups to come and go.
The exact origin of these early settlers has been much debated, particularly in the light of modern ethnic tensions.
After the coffee plantations were destroyed by a fungus in the 1870s, planters switched to tea, with the country soon becoming the second largest producer of black tea after India. Bandaranaike formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
During this period, Indian Tamils were brought in as indentured labour for the tea estates. In 1956 the nationalist SLFP won the elections, but in September 1959 Bandaranaike was assassinated.
The Kingdom of Kandy was invaded in 1815 and its monarchy abolished, with the whole island coming under British rule.
Plantations growing rubber, coconut and coffee were established in the 19th century.
By the time of Alexander the Great’s arrival in the region in around 327 BCE, a trading centre had been established at Māntai (modern-day Tirukketisvaram).
By the 13th century, malaria had spread through the Dry Zone, making the area virtually uninhabitable and the focus of political life drifted to the south-west.
The Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505 and soon began to influence the internal affairs of the island.
Modern humans arrived in South Asia from Africa in around 60,000 BCE, with the earliest definitive evidence of settlement in Sri Lanka dating to about 28,000 BCE.
Early humans had also been to the island much earlier, leaving stone-age tools that can be dated to around 125,000 BCE.