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The Literature on British Guiana

THE literature on British Guiana is both extensive and interesting. Sir Walter Raleigh's Discoverie of.... Guiana does not refer specifically to the area now occupied by British, Dutch and French Guiana, but rather to the Orinoco area; yet his descriptions, somewhat romanticized, are of a similar terrain to the modern Guianas. A Relation of a Voyage to Guiana by Robert Harcourt was published in 1613; Harcourt visited what is now French Guiana in 1609. It is an exciting account of early colonizing adventures, vivid and full of information. The first book to appear which described the area of the Guianas which is now British was Adriaan van Berkel's Travels in South America between the Berbice and Essequibo Rivers 1670-1689. Berkel's main interest in the Colony was to encourage trade with the Indians. He gives a fascinating account of the primitive life led by the Arawak tribe of Indians before their contact with Europeans. For the period of Dutch expansion in the eighteenth century the best and most vivid source is the collection of van's Gravesande's reports which has been published in two volumes by the Hakluyt Society. At the end of the eighteenth century various books appeared written by Englishmen who had been in the Colony at the time of the British occupation. A Voyage to the Demerary 1799-1806 was written by a lively young man who went to the Colony to make his fortune as a merchant. It is a personal account of his travels on the coast and in the Interior as well as an invaluable account of the state of the Colony's development at the time. A Soldier's Sojourn in British Guiana (1806– 1808) by Lt. Thomas Staunton St. Clair is a more limited book, but of interest for its candid descriptions of slavery and the way of life of the old plantocracy.

Charles Waterton and the Schomburgk brothers, Richard and Robert, are the three most important writers about the Interior of the Colony. Waterton's classic among travel books, Wanderings in South America (1825), is concerned mainly with three expeditions which he made into the Interior. The first expedition was in order to procure some curare from the Makusi Indians and to study the effects of the poison on the human and animal systems. Waterton was an amateur naturalist, while the Schomburgk brothers were professional scientists and naturalists, sent by the British and

Prussian Governments to explore and survey the then unknown Interior. Richard Schomburgk wrote his Travels in British Guiana 1840-44 largely as a naturalist, and much of the book is taken up with accounts of botanical discoveries. It is an indispensable work. Sir Everard im Thurn's Among the Indians of Guiana (1883) is a personal and extremely readable account of the Interior, a pioneer work on the Amerindians which in many ways has not been superseded. He was Curator of the Museum in Georgetown. A work of great interest, though less learned than im Thurn's, is Canoe and Camp Life in British Guiana (1876) by C. Barrington Brown, who was Governor Surveyor to the Colony and the discoverer of Kaieteur Fall. Excellent books about the Interior have been written in more recent years; these include William Beebe's four volumes Jungle Peace (1919), Jungle Days (1925), Edge of the Jungle (1922) and Tropical Wild Life in British Guiana (1917); Pathfinding on the Mazaruni 1922-24 by Vincent Roth; and Evelyn Waugh's Ninety-two Days (1934). W. E. Roth, father of Vincent Roth, wrote two important works on the Amerindians: An Introductory Study of the Arts, Crafts and Customs of the Guiana Indians (38th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1916–17) and An Inquiry into the Animism and Folklore of the Guiana Indians (30th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1908–09).

There is no modern history of British Guiana. The standard work, History of British Guiana from 1668 by James Rodway, was published in three volumes between 1891 and 1894. Sir Cecil Clementi, one-time Governor of the Colony, wrote A Constitutional History of British Guiana (1937), a standard work but necessarily specialized. There are some local historians who have written useful works on aspects of Guianese history; outstanding are Dwarka Nath's A History of the Indians in British Guiana (1950), Peter Ruhomon's Centenary History of the East Indians in British Guiana 1838-1938 (1946), and the three volumes of P. H. Daly's Story of the Heroes, which examines Guianese history from the point of view of various individuals who have been prominent in the development of the Colony from its early days.

The most comprehensive recent work on the economic development of British Guiana is the Report of International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (1953), which I have frequently consulted during the writing of this book. Dating back to the British occupation there is a vast mass of official publications, and below I list some which I have consulted with profit:

Report of the Constitutional Commission, 1950-51, H.M.S.O. Report of the British Guiana Constitutional Commission, 1954, H.M.S.O. Development and Welfare in the West Indies, 1953, H.M.S.O. British Guiana Drainage and Irrigation Schemes, H.M.S.O. Handbook of Natural Resources of British Guiana (compiled under the direction of the Interior Development Committee of British Guiana and its former Chairman, Honourable Vincent Roth). Memorandum on the Financial Position of British Guiana, 1920–1946, by O. A. Spencer, B.Com., Economic Adviser to the Government of British Guiana.

Report of the Enmore Commission, 1948.

Papers relating to Development Planning, including as an Appendix The Population and Housing Problem of the Sugar Estates of British Guiana by Dr. George Giglioli, O.B.E., M.D. (It.), M.R.C.P.(Lond.), D.T.M.& H.(Eng.).


Abary River, 68, 156
Abercromby, Sir Ralph, 39
Abolition, Act of, 1833, 42
of Slave Trade, 1807, 41
Administration: slowness and in-
efficiency, 57; low rates of pay
for officials, 57; in the Interior,
166; preparation for self-
government, 205
African Manganese Ltd., 194
Africans: their villages, 8, 108; in
Georgetown, 15; illiteracy rate
among, 21n.; percentage of
total population, 45; attitude
to Indians, 53; adaptation to
white manner of living, 53;
open nature of, 53-4; com-
parison with Indians, 53;
charm of manner, 54-5;
reliance on British Admini-
stration, 55; eating habits, 63;
reluctance to work on land,
84; sense of grievance, 86;
acquisition of their land by
East Indian landlords, 110;
moral standards among, 115-
16; modern cultural standards
of, 119, 120; improved posi-
tion of, under federation, 147;
in the Interior, 162; their
shacks, 191
Agriculture, Department of, 109,


development of, 161-2

Air travel: use of, as means of
transport, 26-7, 160, 166
Akawaio tribe, 56, 165, 198
Albion, Plantation, 112-13
Albouystown. See Georgetown
Aluminum Company of Canada,

Amakura River, 5

Amazon River, 4, 37, 158

Amerindian Affairs, Field Officer
for, 196
Amerindians, 37; reservations for,
56, 217; in Interior, 151, 160,
162; divisions of, 164–5; grow-
ing of fruit and vegetables for
sale, 166; and idea of British
justice, 166-7; their huts, 191;
as woodcutters, 193; in North-
West District, 195ff.; attitude
of Dutch settlers towards, 195–
6; Government protection for,
196-7; mission schools for,
197; difficulties of training as
teachers, 197; improved health
of, 197; pulmonary tuber-
culosis among, 197–8; aim of
integration, 198-9
Amiens, Peace of, 40--1
Anglicanism, 100; Missions, 164
Animals, poor condition of, 60
Annai, 164

Annie's Creek village, 192
Anopheles darlingi, 82–3
Ant-bear, the, 169
Arakaka, 164

Arawak tribe, 56, 222
Arekuna tribe, 165, 198
Argosy, the, 11

Ashanti tribes, 102; religion, 102;
myths, 126. See also Obeah
Atkinson Field, 4
Awarwaunau, 202

Bachelor's Adventure Plantation,

Bailey, McDonald, 50
Balata, 157, 167
Bamford, James, 166
Banana growing, 193

Banbury, Rev. Thomas: Jamaica
Superstition, 103

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