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GUYANA - A BRIEF HISTORY
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A Brief History - Introduction
| The First Europeans | European Colonisation | British Rule | Slavery & After | Modern Guyana |

Click to enlargeThe area of the three Guianas (British, Dutch and French), bounded by the rivers of the Orinoco, Amazon, Rio Negro and the Atlantic Ocean, is believed to have been settled before 900 AD by Warrau Indians, and later by the Arawak and Carib tribes. However, there is no evidence from these times of an advanced civilisation such as those found elsewhere in the Americas.

The First Europeans
In 1489, Christopher Columbus sailed off the coast and in 1595 Sir Walter Raleigh's voyage to the New World led to subsequent accounts of El Dorado, the city of gold, which was believed to be in, or around, what is now Guyana. The Dutch, who began trading with Amerindians along the coast of Guyana, established two trading posts on the mainland, one in the Pomeroon and the other on the Abary Creek, around 1580.

European Colonisation - 17th to 19th Century
The Dutch trading post in the Pomeroon was relocated around 1616 to another area in Essequibo, at the junction of the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers, where they built Fort Kyk-Over-Al (Kijk-Over-Al), the first major Dutch settlement in what is now Guyana. In 1621, the Dutch West India Company was formed and took over control of Essequibo. In 1627, a second Dutch settlement was established in Berbice, east of Essequibo.
The cultivation of sugar cane began in 1658 along the Pomeroon River in Essequibo. Sugar has been and continues to be one of the major exports of Guyana. There followed a series of conflicts between the Dutch and English.
A third settlement, Demerara, situated between Essequibo and Berbice was established by the Dutch in 1741 and the three settlements were granted the status of Colony by 1773. The Dutch imported African slaves to work on their plantations during the early years of the colonies. The Berbice revolt, 1763-64, began at Plantation Magalenenburg in the Colony of Berbice. The rebellion which was in protest of the harsh treatment of the slaves. For a brief period in 1781, the English gained control of the colonies Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara, but in 1782 the French and Dutch collaborated to seize control of the colonies. In 1784, the Dutch were in control of the colonies.

British Rule Established
The British gained control of the colonies in 1796 and they continued as part of the British Empire until 1966, except for a short period during 1802 and 1803 when the Dutch were given control of the colonies under the Treaty of Amiens.

The capital, Stabroek, was renamed George Town in honour of the British Monarch, George IV. The British became the sole possessors of the United Colony and the Colony of Berbice in 1815 under the terms of the Treaty of Vienna. In 1831 the colonies were merged to form British Guiana.

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Click to enlargeSlavery and After
Discontent amongst the slaves festered as the 19th century progressed; there were disturbances, particularly in 1823 and troops were required to put down a rebellion.
Slavery was abolished in British Guiana under the Emancipation Act in 1833 and replaced by a period of Apprenticeship during which persons registered as slaves, six years old and upwards, were required to serve their former masters. In return, the plantation owners were supposed to pay wages for their work. The plantation owners continued their ill treatment of the apprentices even though they were free people in the eyes of the law. The apprentices protested during August 1834 at their poor treatment, but the situation was brought under control. In 1838, full freedom was granted. Following the abolition of slavery, the British brought indentured labourers from Germany, Portugal, India and China to work on the plantations. The former slaves purchased land and founded villages on the coastal strip. | More on Slavery |

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Guyana - Administrative & Natural Regions Modern Guyana is about the size of Britain - 215,000 sq. kms - but its population is just some 750,000. Population density is less than 10 persons per sq. km.

Guyana has ten administrative regions:

1. Barima-Waini gets its name from its two main rivers. The region is predominantly forested highland, bordered on the north by a narrow strip of low coastal plain. It has a sparse population, mainly in Amerindian villages. Logging is the region's main economic activity, with the timber being conveyed to Demerara to be processed into plywood. The tropical rainforest contains many valuable species of hardwood. Mining for gold and diamond is also carried out in the forest. The coast is renowned for its beaches, particularly Shell Beach (see map above), the only beach in the world to host four species of sea turtles during their nesting period. The Scarlet Ibis is also a common sight on these beaches.

2. Pomeroon-Supenaam is largely composed of forested highland and low coastal plain, but also includes a small area of the hilly sand and clay region. The people of this region live in Amerindian villages and more established villages concentrated along the coast. The town of Anna Regina, on the west bank of the Essequibo River, grew out of a government land development scheme and is made up of former plantations such as Henrietta, Lima, La Belle Alliance. Walton Hall, once the plantation owned by Squire Waterton's father, Thomas, is situated on the Essequibo coast. Rice fields dominate the region and the region is sometimes referred to as 'the rice land'.

3. Essequibo Islands-West Demerara is composed of the islands in the Essequibo River such as Leguan and Wakenaam, and the Western portion of mainland Demerara. It is made up of low coastland, hilly sand and clay, and a small number of forested highland areas. There are many villages along the coast. It contains villages such as Parika, Meten-Meer-Zorg and Uitvlugt. The Administrative centre is Vreed-en-Hoop. Rice farming is predominant, with small amounts of sugar and coconut cultivation. Read more about this region at Wikipedia, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara. [accessed 8th Jan 2017]

4. Demerara-Mahaica extends East of the Demerara River to the Western bank of the Mahaica River, and is predominantly low coastal plain, with a small area of hilly sand and clay region further inland. The population is concentrated along the coastland, particularly in Georgetown. There are many sugar estates, such as Diamond, Enmore and La Bonne Intention, owned and controlled by the Guyana Sugar Corporation. There are also some coconut estates.

5. Mahaica-Berbice extends east of the Mahaica River to the west bank of the Berbice River. A large part of the region is low coastal plain. Rice farming is the main economic activity, followed by sugar and coconut farming, and beef and dairy cattle ranching. Large dams were built across the headwaters of the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary Creeks to prevent the flooding of the farmlands in front of them during the wet seasons. During the dry seasons, the dams are opened to allow the land to be irrigated.

6. East Berbice-Corentyne is the only region to include parts of all four natural geographical regions: coastal plain, intermediate savannah, hilly and sandy clay area and forested highland. It is also the only Region with three towns: New Amsterdam, Rose Hall and Corriverton. It is an important rice-producing, cattle-rearing and sugarcane producing area.

7. Cuyuni-Mazaruni contains two of the four natural regions: forested highlands and a small portion of the hilly sand and clay region. It contains Pakaraima mountain range with Mount Roraima (2,810 metres high, standing at the point where Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela meet) and Mount Ayanganna. Most of the population are involved in mining for gold and diamonds.

8. Potaro-Siparuni is named after the Potaro and Siparuni Rivers, which are tributaries of the Essequibo River. Predominantly forested highland with a small portion of hilly sand and clay, this region is home to the famous Kaieteur and Orinduik Falls. The Kaieteur is one of the highest single-drop waterfalls in the world, and it is one of the beautiful sights in the Guyana. The waterfalls of this region are great tourist attractions. Sparsely populated, this region has gold and diamond mining and forestry. Many of the mining companies are destroying the rivers they work in, particularly the Essequibo and Konawaruk Rivers.

9. Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo contains the Kanuku and Kamoa highlands and the vast Rupununi savannahs. The forested Kanuku Mountains divide this Region in two. The north savannahs are about 2,000 square miles in area, and the south savannahs are 2,500 square miles. The population lives in scattered Amerindian villages and land settlement schemes. The Rupununi is considered to be 'cattle country'. Most of the cattle are farmed to produce beef, although a few are kept for milk. There are large ranches here with much of the beef produced here being sold in neighbouring Brazil, because transportation is easier than to other parts of Guyana. The people of this region also mine semiprecious stones among the foothills of the Kamoa Mountains and among the Marundi Mountains. This is the land of the Giant River Otter, the Arapaima (the largest freshwater fish in the world - Arapaima gigas) and the Black Cayman.

10. Upper Demerar-Upper Berbice contains the largest portion of the hilly sand and clay area. Guyana's principal bauxite (*) deposits are found in the White Sands area. The extracted bauxite is exported to make aluminium. A small portion of the Iwokrama Rainforest Project is located in this Region. Cattle-rearing and forestry are also done on very small scales.
(* bauxite is a clay-like mineral containing alumina, i.e. the compound aluminium oxide occurring naturally as corundum and emery. In the USA, aluminium is spelled "aluminum".)

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Reference sources include:
The Guyana Story By Dr. Odeen Ishmael guyanaca.com - guyana.org.
Guyana Guide - guyanaguide.com.
Guyana Historic Events at http://geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/9253/History.html


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GUYANA - A BRIEF HISTORY
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