Kannur is an ancient port town that finds mention in Greek literature as the port of Naura. In medieval history, Kannur was one of the most important trading ports on the western coast. Kannur was strategically important and all colonial powers beginning with the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and finally the British, coveted control of this port. When under the British, Kannur was the third-largest port on the western coast, after Bombay and Karachi. Marco Polo mentions Kannur as the 'Emporium of Spice Trade' alluding to the port's healthy trading history. In the 17th century, Kannur was the capital of the Arakkal Sultanate - the only Muslim dynasty that ruled in Kerala. Kannur, along with the Lakshadweep islands, were leased originally from the Kolattiri rulers. When it came under the British Raj in the 18th century, Kannur's name was changed to Cannanore. The name is still in use by the Indian Railways, which also developed substantially under the British rule. The independence movement came to Kannur with the ideals of Socialism. Kerala, and especially Kannur, is politically left-leaning, and this district has very strong worker unions. The development of Kannur is slow, but the city is politically very conscious and active.
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