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Cinnamon Gardens near Point de Galle.

Cinnamon Gardens near Point de Galle.

Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1852

Shelfmark: Photo 249/(64)

Item number: 24964

Genre: Photograph

Photograph by Frederick Fiebig from an album of 70 handcoloured salt prints, of cinnamon gardens near Point de Galle in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Fiebig's photographs of Ceylon, probably taken in 1852, are considered the earliest surviving photographic record of the island. Galle, on the south-western coast, was the main trading port of Sri Lanka since antiquity, only being supplanted by Colombo in the late 19th century, after the British developed Colombo's harbour. While Sri Lanka is well-known for its tea export today, historically it was cinnamon which was closely associated with the island. The botanical name for the spice, cinnamomum zeylanicum, is derived from the former name of the island: Ceylon. The spice is obtained from the scented inner bark of a tree and European colonists were first drawn to the island of Sri Lanka in order to exploit the natural cinnamon crop. Between the 16th and mid-19th centuries Sri Lanka supplied all the cinnamon used in Europe. Costly wars were fought over it between Portugal and Holland and it became the main article of trade for the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch were so keen to preserve a monopoly of this spice that they passed a law in 1659 which made buying or selling wild jungle cinnamon an offence punishable by death. Once coastal areas of Ceylon were conquered, small commercial groves were planted from 1770 onwards. By 1840 the cinnamon trade had declined and the government which owned the plantations offered these 'gardens' for sale. Today Sri Lanka is still the leading source of the world's cinnamon, providing it with the choicest grades of the spice. The cinnamon groves and gardens are concentrated in the north-western and south-western coastal regions, north and south of Colombo, the commercial centre.

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