Since Columbus’ alleged sighting of the coast of Guyana in 1492, the land has been controlled by the major European powers. The Dutch were the first to colonize Guyana in 1616. The British arrived in South America shortly after the Dutch created their first outpost in Guyana. Eventually, the British strengthened the control of the area and were formally gained control of the colony in 1814. Great Britain maintained control of Guyana until the South American country declared its independence on May 26, 1966.
During the time of British control Guyana saw huge changes in its people. As the British realized that Guyana was comprised of good, fertile, farming land, the colonial powerhouse recognized the agricultural and economic potential of their new colony. Britain quickly started transporting thousands of slaves from West Africa and Caribbean islands to Guyana, where the majority of the country was made up of sugar plantations ready to be worked on. Eventually, the British were forced to ban slavery in 1807, but quickly found a way around it. Within the next 25 years, they brought around 30,000 indentured slaves from on of their other major colonies, India. The production of sugar and other natural goods continued as these workers stayed in the country. Instead of returning home after finishing their work in Guyana, almost all East Indian workers gave up their rights to return home in exchange for a piece of land in Guyana.
Since the presence of European powers of in Guyana, the country has turned into a melting pot of ethnicities today. Some Dutch, British, and Afro-Guyanese (descendants of slaves) remained in the “urban” capital of Georgetown, and the East Indians (descendants of indentured servants) and Amerindians (native Guyanese) reside in the rural interior of the country.
Today, East Indians make up the majority of the population in Guyana (40%) and have mainly remained on the rural farming land given to their ancestors. Taking this into account, about three fifths of Guyana’s population still lives in rural areas.
During the British control of Guyana, there was no real incentive or reason to urbanize the country as the main focus for the British was to maximize its economy through the abundance of sugar production in the rural areas of Guyana. Since the British left the country in 1966, there has yet to be much urban development in Guyana.
Considering that the country is extremely heterogeneous, maintaining and effective and productive of government has been extremely difficult. Each major political party has desires for its own people or ethnicity, and no one is considering the countries wants and needs as a whole. Today, there has been very little incentive to develop the country as agricultural is still the major source of income for the country. There have been plans in the past to develop the capital, Georgetown, but without the entire country’s full cooperation, Guyana will remain an underdeveloped country that relies on its natural resources.