Dutch Guiana


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Dutch Guiana is Number 136 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. Dutch Guiana (present-day Suriname) came under the uncontested possession of the States of Zeeland (part of the confederation that made up the Netherlands) in 1674, after a period of rivalry with the British in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of 1665−67 and 1672−74. The early population of the colony included a large number of Jewish settlers, mostly of Portuguese or Spanish origin, who had made their way to Guiana from Brazil, after the Dutch, who had welcomed Jewish settlement in Brazil, were expelled from that colony in 1654 by the dominant Portuguese. The study notes the importance of plantation agriculture for the economy, initially based on slavery and imported labor from British India and the Dutch East Indies. The population of Dutch Guiana was noteworthy for its religious and ethnic diversity. The bulk of the population was Christian, with the largest group being the Mennonites. Moravian Brethren missionaries came to the colony from Germany in the 18th century, and by 1863, when slavery was abolished, three-quarters of the black population were said to be Mennonites. Also present were Jews descended from the 17th century settlers, and large minorities of Hindus and Muslims, descended mainly from workers imported from Asia in the previous century. Dutch Guiana became the independent Republic of Suriname on November 25, 1975.

Last updated: July 23, 2015