Robert Knox (sailor)

Robert Knox (sailor)

Robert Knox (1641-1720) was an English sea captain in the service of the British East India Company. He was the son of another sea captain, also called Robert Knox.

The two Knoxes were driven ashore on Ceylon, now Sri Lanka in a storm in 1659 while on their way home from Fort St George (now Madras). They were captured in the name of the King of Kandy near Mooduthora (Mutur), Trincomalee along with 17 other members of the crew by the King of Ceylon, in what appeared to be a benign arrangement. The sailors were free to travel around the Kingdom of Kandy, marry, have children, have their own houses and businesses, though not leave the Kingdom. Many of the crew intermarried and settled in Kandy, contributing to the formation of the Burgher people, whose descendants still carry anglicised surnames today. The father died of malaria, but Knox survived by knitting caps, selling goods and dealing in rice and corn. Knox eventually escaped with one companion after nineteen years of captivity, reaching Arippu, a Dutch settlement on the north-west coast of the island.

Knox joined the East India Company in 1680 and, like his father, also became a sea captain. He was dismissed in 1694 but set himself up on his own trading vessel, the "Mary". He died a wealthy bachelor in London.

In 1681 Knox wrote an account of his experiences, 'An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies', accompanied by engravings showing the inhabitants, their customs and agricultural techniques. The book is one of the earliest and most detailed European accounts of life on Ceylon and is today seen as an invaluable record of the island in the 17th century. It has been reprinted several times since its publication.

Knox was also the first Englishman to bring home samples of "a strange intoxicating herb like hemp" which he dubbed "Indian hemp"; it is better known today as cannabis. In December 1689, Knox presented seeds to Robert Hooke of the Royal Society and gave an address to the Society on the herb's properties.


* [ Knox] .

ee also

*Place names in Sri Lanka

External links

* [ Other sites in Sri Lanka] .
*gutenberg author| id=Robert_Knox+(1641-1720) | name=Robert Knox
** "Historical relation of Ceylon [...] "

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