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A Brief History of British Guyana

Guyana lies on the northeast edge of South America, flanked by Venezuela on the west. It is a largely populated settlement compared to other areas in the West Indies, but Guyana does not have the economic or political impact that nearby Trinidad or Jamaica does.

Current scholarship holds that the territory known as Guyana was first settled sometime before 900 A.D. by tribes of Indians whose present-day decendents include the peoples of the Shiriana, Waica, Warrau, and Guaharibo tribes. These early inhabitants were nomads, hunting and gathering for food. Theory holds that they began developing more complex communities after 900 A.D., evidence of which includes advanced pottery. These tribes eventually transformed into agrarian cultures, with religious sites and artifacts. The tribes were not unified in culture, however. Despite the similarities among them, they all possessed different languages and sociological behavior patterns. Within the small region, the cultures displayed much diversity.

This situation existed untouched for hundreds of years. Columbus sailed along the Guyana coast in 1498 but did not attempt to establish a settlement there. No attempts at settlement were made, in fact, until the late 1500s, with the voyages of British explorers such as Raliegh, Keymis, and Berrie. Raliegh was consumed with the legend of "El Dorado," the "lost city of gold," and in his search he came upon the region. The location of Guyana inspired Raleigh to imagine an extension of the British empire that would stretch from the Amazon river to the Orinoco and would counterbalance the growing Spanish influence in the Americas.

England, however, was one of many nations interested in appropriating Guyana for its own purposes. In addition to the early British exploration, a fort built on an island in the Essequibo river suggests that the Dutch had already visited the area. The fort functioned as the center of Dutch influence in the area un...

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A Brief History of British Guyana. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:57, March 19, 2019, from