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Guyana Old History

 

After first being colonized by the Dutch, the present Guyana came under British control in 1814. While the Dutch had imported slaves from Africa, the British began to take in labor from India. The contradictions between the descendants of these two groups of people came to characterize the modern society that emerged after World War II, as independence approached.

Guyana has long been inhabited by people groups that the European colonizers collectively called Indians. The first inhabitants were probably warao. Arawaker settled early in the coastal area but was later driven away by caribou.

  • AbbreviationFinder.org: Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Guyana, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

Italian sailor Christofer Columbus sailed past Guyana in 1498 on his third voyage to the New World. The English tried to establish communities in the area in the early 17th century, but the Dutch were the first Europeans to settle there permanently. With a fort on the banks of the Essequibo River, the Dutch Caribbean Company laid the foundation for the first colony in 1616. Soon Dutch settlements also existed at the mouths of the Demerara and Berbice rivers. The Dutch traded with the urinals and planted plantations on the coastal plain and along the rivers. To manage the plantations, they imported slaves from West Africa. In the 18th century, the Dutch dug out large mangrove swamps along the coast and built dams and canals according to a model from their homeland. They cultivated coffee beans, cotton and sugar cane.

The British take over the colony

Old History of Guyana

The control of the colony alternated between the Dutch, British and French from 1775 until 1814, when Britain gained final dominion. In 1831 the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were brought together to British Guiana (by then spelling).

During the 17th and 18th centuries, thousands of slaves fled from the oppression of the plantations into the rainforest where they settled side by side with the indigenous peoples. These escaped slaves and their descendants came to be called maroons. Slave rebellions also occurred: in Berbice, slaves took over plantations in 1763 under the leadership of the slave Cuffy (Kofi Badu). For a few months they controlled almost the entire colony until the revolt broke down. Cuffy is one of Guyana's national heroes today.

Slave trade was banned within the British Empire in 1807, and in 1834 slavery was abolished altogether. Since the freed ex-slaves did not even want to continue to work on the plantations for payment, the British brought hundreds of thousands of contract workers to the colony, especially from India. Many of these accepted land offers instead of returning when the contract period was over. The system of contract work was banned in 1917.

Political parties are formed

After World War II, Guyana gained some autonomy. Two men emerged who would for a long time make a mark on the country's politics: Cheddi Jagan, the son of an Indian plantation worker, and Forbes Burnham, who came from the black middle class. Together, they formed Guyana's first mass-based party, the left-wing People's Progress Party (PPP). Jagan became the party leader and Burnham its second man.

The PPP won the first general election in 1953, but the British abolished the constitution and appointed a provisional government, since they (and the US) perceived Jagan as a Marxist with ties to the Soviet Union. Before the next election, in 1957, Burnham broke out of the PPP and formed his own party, the People's National Congress (PNC). The majority of the PPP's black sympathizers abandoned the party, but the Indians, now more than the blacks, remained, and the PPP won again. From this time on, an ethnic dividing line between Indians (Indoguyanans) and Blacks (Afroguyanans) has run through politics.

 
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