The capital of erstwhile British Malabar, Thalassery has a prominent place in the history of Malabar as a military fort, trade center, port and court of justice.
Thalassery is one of the oldest municipalities in Kerala. The name of Thalassery is recorded as Thalassery, Tellicherry, Thalakacherry, Thalascherry etc. in old records. There is no clear evidence on the origin of these names.
One opinion is that Thalassery was the capital (thala) of many cheris (habitations) and therefore it got the name Thalacherry. Another version is that it was the Headquarters (thala) of several offices (kacheri) in North Kerala and hence it got the name Thalakacheri. It is also believed that the place was one among the ancient ‘Thali’s (Brahmin habitation) and therefore it got the name Thalissery which was gradually transformed to Thalassery. Whatever be the truth of these origins, the city of Thalassery has acquired an important position in the history of Kerala.
There is no doubt about the fact that Thalassery, part of the erstwhile Kottayam Taluk, grew into become an important commercial centre under the European rule. The Thalassery shot into prominence in several fields under the European rule.
The city grew as a centre of union for the Chirakkal, Kottayam and Kadathanad Kingdoms, as the area of activity of the Randu Thara and Kurungod local rulers and also as a port town. It is also considered that the growth of Thalassery as a commercial centre took place after 16th Centuary.
In the years 1704-05, the descendants of the Udayamangalam Kingdom who were then estranged with the Kolathiri Kings, attacked the British trade centres at Thalassery along with Kurungoth Nair, a local leader of Thalassery area. Kurungoth Nair also demanded his share on the rice and other commodities imported through Thalassery port. These attacks made the British think about the security of their trade centre. They requested Vadakkum Koor Kingdom for the construction of a Fort. The King himself came to Thalassery for laying the foundation stone of the Fort. When construction of the Fort was completed, the Prince of Vadakkumkoor at Kolathunadu, officially handed over the Fort and the adjoining land to the British on 20th August 1708.
The manual of administration of Madras Presidency Vol. II 1885 says the old name of this place is 'Shwetaranyapuri. 'Shweta' means white, 'Aaranya' means forest and 'puri' means town. There is also a mention is historical records that Tiruvenkad later became Thiruvangad. David Smith of the department of religious studies of Lancaster University writes in his book 'THe Dance of Shiva' that this was the place where the Acharya of Upansihads 'Shwetaketu' lived here which is why the place got the name Shwetarangapuri.
The fort build by the East India Company is an Thiruvallappan hill which was owned by Punolil Mussad. Thalassery actually started progressing after it became a trading centre in the old kottayam taluk under British rule. This happened in the 16th century.
There are some signs of Brahmin domination in the center of the town. But there is no mention of Thalassery in the old 'Talis' of Kerala.