Guyana was initially colonized by the Netherlands in the 17th Century. However, by 1814 it became a British colony and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on May 26, 1966. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a Republic.
The original ‘Guiana’ was inhabited by semi-nomadic Amerindian tribes, notably the Arawaks and Caribs. Colonial competition for territory began with Spain’s sighting in 1499. Later came the Dutch then the British, French and Portuguese. The British rule imported African slaves to develop their plantations, first of tobacco and later sugar, and to labour on constructing the coastal drainage system and the elegant city of Georgetown. On February 23, 1763, there was an uprising that was considered the first true attempt by slaves to fight for their freedom. During the revolt, a household slave named Cuffy from plantation Lilienburg, quickly assumed a leading role in the rebellion and organized many riots against plantations owners. The uprising lasted for more than a year before the Dutch were able to overcome the slaves.
The abolition of slavery on 1st August 1834 led to a settlement of urban areas by former slaves and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. On May 5, 1838, 396 Indians arrived in British Guiana on two sailing ships, the Whitby and the Hesperus. This Indentureship ended in 1917.