Allo' Expat Guyana - Connecting Expats in Guyana
Main Homepage
Allo' Expat Guyana Logo


Subscribe to Allo' Expat Newsletter
 
Check our Rates
   Information Center Guyana
Guyana General Information
 
History of Guyana
Guyana Culture
Guyana Cuisine
Guyana Geography
Guyana Population
Guyana Government
Guyana Economy
Guyana Communications
Guyana Transportation
Guyana Military
Guyana Transnational Issues
Guyana Healthcare
Guyana People, Languages & Religions
Guyana Expatriates Handbook
Guyana and Foreign Government
Guyana General Listings
Guyana Useful Tips
Guyana Education & Medical
Guyana Travel & Tourism Info
Guyana Lifestyle & Leisure
Guyana Business Matters
  Sponsored Links


Check our Rates

History of Guyana
 
 
 

Early History

The first humans to reach Guyana belonged to the group of people that crossed into North America from Asia perhaps maybe as much as 35,000 years ago. These first inhabitants were nomads who slowly spread south into Central America and South America. Although great civilizations later arose in the Americas, the structure of Amerindian society in the Guianas remained relatively simple. At the time of Christopher Columbus' voyages, Guyana's inhabitants were divided into two groups, the Arawak along the coast and the Carib in the interior. One of the legacies of the indigenous peoples was the word Guiana, often used to describe the region encompassing modern Guyana as well as Suriname (former Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana. The word, which means "land of waters", is highly appropriate, considering the area's multitude of rivers and streams.

Historians speculate that the Arawak and Carib originated in the South American hinterland and migrated northward, first to the present-day Guianas and then to the Caribbean islands. The peaceful Arawak, mainly cultivators, hunters, and fishermen, migrated to the Caribbean islands before the Carib and settled throughout the region. The tranquillity of Arawak society was disrupted by the arrival of the bellicose Carib from the South American interior. Carib warlike behaviour and violent movement north made an impact still discussed today. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Carib had displaced the Arawak throughout the islands of the Lesser Antilles. The Carib settlement of the Lesser Antilles also affected Guyana's future development. The Spanish explorers and settlers who came after Columbus found that the Arawak proved easier to conquer than the Carib, who fought hard to maintain their freedom. This fierce resistance, along with a lack of gold in the Lesser Antilles, contributed to the Spanish emphasis on conquest and settlement of the Greater Antilles and the mainland. Only a weak Spanish effort was made at consolidating Spain's authority in the Lesser Antilles (with the arguable exception of Trinidad) and the Guianas.

Early Colonisation

The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle what is now Guyana. The Netherlands had obtained independence from Spain in the late 1500s and by the early 1600s had emerged as a major commercial power, trading with the fledgling English and French colonies in the Lesser Antilles. In 1616 the Dutch established the first European settlement in the area of Guyana, a trading post 25 km upstream from the mouth of the Essequibo River. Other settlements followed, usually a few kilometres inland on the larger rivers. The initial purpose of the Dutch settlements was trade with the indigenous people. The Dutch aim soon changed to acquisition of territory as other European powers gained colonies elsewhere in the Caribbean. Although Guyana was claimed by the Spanish, who sent periodic patrols through the region, the Dutch gained control over the region early in the 17th century. Dutch sovereignty was officially recognised with the signing of the Treaty of Munster in 1648.

In 1621 the government of the Netherlands gave the newly formed Dutch West India Company complete control over the trading post on the Essequibo. This Dutch commercial concern administered the colony, known as Essequibo, for more than 170 years. The company established a second colony, on the Berbice River southeast of Essequibo, in 1627. Although under the general jurisdiction of this private group, the settlement, named Berbice, was governed separately. Demerara, situated between Essequibo and Berbice, was settled in 1741 and emerged in 1773 as a separate colony under direct control of the Dutch West India Company.

Although the Dutch colonisers initially were motivated by the prospect of trade in the Caribbean, their possessions became significant producers of crops. The growing importance of agriculture was indicated by the export of 15,000 kg of tobacco from Essequibo in 1623. But as the agricultural productivity of the Dutch colonies increased, a labour shortage emerged. The indigenous populations were poorly adapted for work on plantations, and many people died from diseases introduced by the Europeans. The Dutch West India Company turned to the importation of African slaves, who rapidly became a key element in the colonial economy. By the 1660s, the slave population numbered about 2,500; the number of indigenous people was estimated at 50,000, most of whom had retreated into the vast hinterland. Although African slaves were considered an essential element of the colonial economy, their working conditions were brutal. The mortality rate was high, and the dismal conditions led to more than half a dozen slave rebellions.

The most famous slave uprising, the Berbice Slave Uprising, began in February 1763. The freedom fighters were eventually defeated with the assistance of troops from neighbouring French and British colonies and from Europe.

One of the most significant Dutch legacies in Guyana was the method of land management. Settlement and agriculture initially were limited to a belt of land extending 50 to 150 km upriver. The marshy coast flooded at high tide and did not appear conducive to European settlement. The prospect of large profits for tropical agricultural products, especially sugar, led to the reclamation of coastal lands in the second half of the 1700s. The Dutch were eminently suited to this task, having originated the polder system, a technique by which a tract of usable land is created by damming and then draining a water-covered area. Using this system, the Dutch created a coastal plain that remains one of Guyana's most productive plantation areas. The labour for the "polderisation" of Guyana's coast was provided by the Dutch colony's African slaves.

Transition to British Rule

As economic growth accelerated in Demerara and Essequibo, strains began to appear in the relations between the planters and the Dutch West India Company. Administrative reforms during the early 1770s had greatly increased the cost of government. The company periodically sought to raise taxes to cover these expenditures and thereby provoked the resistance of the planters. In 1781 a war broke out between the Netherlands and Britain, which resulted in the British occupation of Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara. Some months later, France, allied with the Netherlands, seized control of the colonies. The French governed for two years, during which they constructed a new town, Longchamps, at the mouth of the Demerara River. When the Dutch regained power in 1784, they moved their colonial capital to Longchamps, which they renamed Stabroeck. The capital eventually would become known as Georgetown.

The catalyst for formal British takeover was the French Revolution and the resulting Napoleonic Wars. In 1795 the French occupied the Netherlands. The British declared war on France and in 1796 launched an expeditionary force from Barbados to occupy the Dutch colonies. The British takeover was bloodless, and local Dutch administration of the colony was left relatively uninterrupted under the constitution provided by the Concept Plan of Redress.


See more information on the next page... (next)


 

 
 
   



 


copyrights © AlloExpat.com
2018 | Policy