Brief History
The Spanish were the first Europeans to have discovered the area and made nominal claims in an area that was disputed with the Portuguese for some time. Sir Walter Raleigh did make an appearance for the British in 1595 as he sought claims of the mythical city of El Dorado somewhere within the Orinoco river system that is actually found in modern day Venezuela, although at this time the entire region was referred to as Guiana. His travels did inspire other explorers to search for the lost City of Gold and so attracted attention to the area for European adventurers and glory seekers.

It was to be the Dutch who first made a practical presence with the creation of three colonies named Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo. The Dutch created slave owning plantations that produced cotton, indigo, sugar and cacao. The first English contact was as a result of the Anglo-Dutch wars when the Dutch River colonies were occupied during the 1665 war. The weakened colonies were further attacked by French privateers and pirates, before being reclaimed by the Dutch.

Relations improved between the Dutch and the English with the conclusion of their wars and William of Orange coming to the throne in England. By the Eighteenth Century, English colonists from Barbados and other islands were being welcomed to the colony to set up their own plantations.

Relations between the two nations deteriorated once more during the American Revolution as the British were unhappy at the Dutch taking advantage of Britain's disrupted Trade patterns during the war. The British occupied the colonies for a while but were themselves displaced by the French. The Dutch were restored to the colonies at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

It was to be the French occupation of Holland itself in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars that saw the colonies occupied by Britain on a more lasting basis. Holland was overrun in 1795. The following year, the British occupied the three Dutch colonies in an uncontested invasion from Barbados. They were returned for a brief while during the 1802 to 1803 Peace of Amiens but were then reoccupied by the British once again when the Napoleonic Wars reignited. The British renamed the principle city as Georgetown in 1812 and formally accepted possession of the three colonies in 1814 as part of the Treaty of London.

In 1831, the three separate colonies were united into the single political entity British Guiana. In 1835 the British government asked the German explorer Robert Hermann Schomburgk to map British Guiana and mark its boundaries. As ordered by the British authorities, Schomburgk began British Guiana's western boundary with Venezuela at the mouth of the Orinoco River. A map of the British colony was published in 1840. Venezuela protested, claiming the entire area west of the Essequibo River. Negotiations between Britain and Venezuela over the boundary began, but the two nations could reach no compromise. In 1850 both agreed not to occupy the disputed zone.

The Colonial Office
Instruments of Independence
The discovery of gold in the contested area in the late 1850s reignited the dispute. British settlers moved into the region and the British Guiana Mining Company was formed to mine the deposits. Over the years, Venezuela made repeated protests and proposed arbitration, but the British government was uninterested. Venezuela finally broke diplomatic relations with Britain in 1887 and appealed to the United States for help. The British at first refused the United States government's suggestion of arbitration, but when President Grover Cleveland threatened to intervene according to the Monroe Doctrine, Britain agreed to let an international tribunal arbitrate the boundary in 1897.

For two years, the tribunal consisting of two Britons, two Americans, and a Russian studied the case. Their three-to-two decision, handed down in 1899, awarded 94 percent of the disputed territory to British Guiana. Venezuela received only the mouth of the Orinoco River and a short stretch of the Atlantic coastline just to the east. Venezuela was unhappy with the decision, and the area is still disputed even now.

The colony became independent as Guyana in 1966.

Imperial Flag
map of The British Guiana
1595 Raleigh's Map of Guiana
1630 Map of Guiana
1635 Map of Guiana
1640 Map of Guiana
1656 Map of Guiana
1661 Map of Guiana
1667 Map of Guiana
1719 Map of Guiana
1733 Map of Guiana
1759 Map of Guiana
1763 Map of Guiana
1767 Map of Guiana
1770 Map of Guiana
1778 Map of Guiana
1779 Map of Guiana
1781 Map of Guianas
1783 Map of Guiana
1798 Map of Guiana
1818 Map of Guiana
1832 Map of Guiana by Alexander
1844 Map of Guiana
1851 Map of Guiana
1872 Map of British Guayana
1875 Royal Geographical Society Map
1896 Map of Border Claims
Historical britishguiana
Images of British Guiana
National Archive Guiana Images
British Guiana, 1933
1833 - 1966
The Career of W L Heape Colonial Administrator 1919 - 1958
Colin Heape gives a biographical overview of his father's Colonial Service career stretching three decades from Africa to the Americas.

Indian Labour in British Guiana

The BBC's Tales from the Commonwealth explores the legacy of the Empire for Guyana.
Suggested Reading
Oroonoko: or the Royal Slave, a True History
by Aphra Behn

The History of British Guiana: Comprising a General Description of the Colony
by Henry G. Dalton

Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography and a British El Dorado
by D. Graham Burnett

Colonial Servant
by Sir John Gutch

A Relation of a Voyage to Guiana
by Richard Harcourt

Colonising Expeditions to the West Indies and Guiana
by Vincent Harlow

The Career of W L Heape Colonial Administrator 1919 - 1958
by Colin Heape

The Iconography Of Independence: Freedoms At Midnight
edited by Robert Holland

The Trail of Diplomacy: The Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue: Volume 1
by Odeen Ishmael

A Long Beat - Service to the Crown, Home and Abroad
by Arthur Hughes Jenkins

Land of Waters: Explorations in the Natural History of Guyana, South America
by Ro McConnell

The Creature in the Map
by Charles Nicholl

The Guiana Maroons
by Richard Price

Transition in Africa: from Direct Rule to Independence: A Memoir
by Sir James Robertson

Chronological History of the Discovery and Settlement of Guiana
by James Rodway

Guiana: British, Dutch, and French
by James Rodway

Richard Schomburg's Travels through British Guiana
by Walter E Roth

by Frank Senauth

My Colonial Service
by Sir George William Des Voeux

Guggisberg (West African History)
by Ronald Wraith

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