Extract from a blog for Reach plc’s ‘In Your Area.’
On April 28th in 1888 ‘The Illustrated London News’ carried our antique print above the caption, “Water Street, Georgetown, Demerara.”
Originally inhabited by groups of Arawaks and Caribs, Guyana and the Demerara River, was unknown to Europeans until the 15th. Century.
It was first seen by Christopher Columbus in 1498 and was subsequently claimed by Spain. However, it was the Dutch who finally began European colonisation in the 1580s.
By the mid-17th century the Dutch, who had initially established trading posts, had begun the cultivation of sugarcane and the importation of slaves from the West coast of Africa.
An interregnum during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars saw Demerara, which had become a British possession in 1796, change hands mostly between British and French forces.
Following the defeat of the French in 1815, the Netherlands formally ceded the colony to Britain and in 1831 Demerara became part of the colony of British Guiana.
A slave revolt in 1823, which was suppressed, had led to an increased awareness in Britain of the evils of slavery and mounting pressure was put on government to end slavery in the colonies.
On 1st. August 1834, in British Guiana, the Slavery Abolition Act was enforced and slavery was abolished and replaced with an ‘apprenticeship’ system.
Four years later, on the anniversary of abolition, all slaves were freed and the people of Demerara finally enjoyed the true taste of freedom.
On 26 May 1966, the country became independent under the name of Guyana.