Cinnamon is the dried bark of the perennial tree of C.zeylanicum of the Lauraceae family. True cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka. Cinnamon is originally grown wild in central hill country of Sri Lanka. The history of cinnamon dates back to about 2800 B.C where it can be found referenced as ”kwai” in Chinese writings. Cinnamon is even mentioned in the Bible when Moses used it as an ingredient for his anointing oil in ancient Rome. It was burned in Roman funerals perhaps partly as a way forward to off the odor of dead bodies. Emperor Nero is said to have burned a years’ worth of the dry supply of cinnamon at the funeral of his wife Poppaea Sabina. Ancient Egyptians used it in embalming mummies because of pleasant odors and its preservative qualities.
Cinnamon was a precious spice in the west during 14th -15th centuries and its’ primary use was to preserve meat and to retard the growth of bacteria. The quest for cinnamon was a major factor which led to exploration of the world in 15th century. By that time the real cinnamon was produced in only one place, namely in Ceylon or Sri Lanka. Anyone who had the control of the supply flow would have made profits immensely. Portuguese traders made their way to Ceylon in the 15th century, enslaved the natives and had the control of the trade from Arabs. Soon the Dutch displaced the Portuguese and gained the control of the cinnamon monopoly. It was the Dutch who took a massive effort to boost the production by domestication of crop and expanding extent in the areas they had the control. Because of that effort cinnamon cultivations were moved to Western and Southern coastal belts of the island. Since 1815 the British took the control of the island and cinnamon trade too was moved to their hands. By this time the relative importance of spices in the world market had been declining due to the emerging plantation crop sector of tea and rubber, which restricted the further expansion of cinnamon.
The best historical evidence about the cinnamon trade in Sri Lanka is found in Up country-Dutch agreement (Hanguranketha agreement) signed in 14th February 1766 between the Sri Lankan king Sri Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe and the Dutch government.
By this agreement King had permitted the Dutch to cut and peel cinnamon in certain forest areas of Sri Lanka and Dutch agreed to protect the Kingdom from foreign invasion.