• History of Suriname

The early history of Suriname dates from 3000 BCE when Native Americans first inhabited the area. The Dutch acquired Suriname from the English, and European settlement in any numbers dates from the 17th century, when it was a plantation colony utilizing slavery for sugar cultivation. With abolition in the late 19th century, planters sought labor from China, Madeira, India, and Indonesia, which was also colonized by the Dutch. Dutch is Suriname’s official language. Owing to its diverse population, it has also developed a creole language, Sranan Tongo.

The flag of Suriname is composed of five horizontal bands of green (top, double width), white, red (quadruple width), white, and green (double width) with a large, yellow, five-pointed star in the center.

The early history of Suriname dates from 3000 BCE when Native Americans first inhabited the area. The Dutch acquired Suriname from the English, and European settlement in any numbers dates from the 17th century, when it was a plantation colony utilizing slavery for sugar cultivation. With abolition in the late 19th century, planters sought labor from China, Madeira, India, and Indonesia, which was also colonized by the Dutch. Dutch is Suriname’s official language. Owing to its diverse population, it has also developed a creole language, Sranan Tongo.

Indigenous settlement

Suriname was populated millennia before the Europeans by many distinct indigenous cultures. The largest nations at the time of colonialization were the Arawaks, a nomadic coastal tribe that lived from hunting and fishing, and the Caribs. The Caribs conquered the Arawaks along much of the coast, and into the Caribbean, using sailing ships. They settled in Galibi (Kupali Yumï, meaning “tree of the forefathers”) on the mouth of the Marowijne river. While the Arawak and Carib lived off the coast and savanna, smaller groups of indigenous peoples lived in the rainforest inland, such as the Akurio, Trió, Warrau, and Wayana.

European colonization

Intermittent Settlement

The first Europeans who came to Suriname were Spanish explorers and Dutch traders who visited the area along with other parts of South America’s ‘Wild Coast.’ In 1613, a Dutch trading post near the village “Parmurbo” was in existence on the Suriname River, while in the same year the Spanish took over another Dutch trading post on the Corantijn River. The first significant attempt to settle the area by Europeans was in 1630, when English settlers led by Captain Marshall attempted to found a colony. They cultivated crops of tobacco, but the venture failed financially.[6] In 1640, perhaps while the English were still at Marshall’s Creek, the French built an outpost near the mouth of the Suriname River.

English Colonization

In 1650, Lord Willoughby, the governor of Barbados, furnished out a vessel to settle a colony in Suriname. At his own cost he equipped a ship of 20 guns, and two smaller vessels with things necessary for the support of the plantation. Major Anthony Rowse settled there in his name. Two years later, for the better settling of the colony, he went in person, fortified and furnished it with things requisite for defence and trade. The settlement consisted of around 30,000 acres (120 km2) and “Fort Willoughby” near the mouth of the Suriname River, expanded from the abandoned French outpost. In 1663 most of the work on the 50 or so plantations was done by native Indians and 3,000 African slaves. There were around 1,000 whites there, joined by Brazilian Jews, attracted by religious freedom which was granted to all the settlers by the English.[citation needed]

Dutch colonization

The settlement was invaded by seven Dutch ships (from the Zeeland region), led by Abraham Crijnssen, on February 26, 1667. Fort Willoughby was captured the next day after a three-hour fight[10] and renamed Fort Zeelandia. On July 31, 1667, the English and Dutch signed the Treaty of Breda, in which for the time being the status quo was respected: the Dutch could keep occupying Suriname and the English the formerly Dutch colony New Amsterdam (modern-day New York). This arrangement was made official in the Treaty of Westminster of 1674, after the English had regained and again lost Suriname in 1667. In 1683 the Society of Suriname was set up, modelled on the ideas of Jean-Baptiste Colbert to profit from the management and defence of the Dutch Republic’s colony. It had three participants, with equal shares in the society’s responsibilities and profits—the city of Amsterdam, the family Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, and the Dutch West India Company. The Van Aerssen family only managed to sell its share in 1770. The Society came to an end in 1795 when this kind of trade and business was no longer seen as acceptable.

Slavery and emancipation

In South America, slavery was the norm. The native people proved to be in limited supply and consequently the Atlantic slave trade supplied the workforce for the plantations. The plantations were producing sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton which were exported for the Amsterdam market. In 1713, for instance, most of the work on the 200 plantations was done by 13,000 African slaves. Their treatment was horrific, and slaves periodically escaped to the jungle from the start. These Maroons (also known as “Djukas” or “Bakabusi Nengre”) attacked the plantations in order to acquire goods that were in short supply and to free enslaved women. Notable leaders of the Surinam Maroons were Alabi, Boni, Joli-coeur and Broos (Captain Broos). In the 18th century, three of the Maroon people signed a peace treaty, similar to the peace treaty ending the First Maroon War in Jamaica, whereby they were recognised as free people and received a yearly tribute that provided them with the goods they used to “liberate” from the plantations. A contemporary description of the war between the Maroons and the plantation owners in Suriname can be found in Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam by John Gabriel Stedman.

Suriname was occupied by the British in 1799, after the Netherlands were incorporated by France, and was returned to the Dutch in 1816, after the defeat of Napoleon. In 1861–63, President Abraham Lincoln of the United States and his administration looked abroad for places to relocate freed slaves who wanted to leave the United States. It opened negotiations with the Dutch government regarding African-American emigration to and colonization of the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. Nothing came of it and after 1864, the proposal was dropped.[13] The Dutch abolished slavery only in 1863, although the British had already abolished it during their short rule. The freed slaves were, however, still required to continue their plantation work on a contract basis and were not released until 1873;[14] up to that date they conducted obligatory but paid work at the plantations. Slaves were required to work on plantations for 10 transition years for minimal pay, which was considered as partial compensation for their masters. Besides that, the Dutch government in 1863 also compensated each slave-owner for the loss of the working force of each slave 300 Dutch florins – in 2021 worth about 3,500 euros. After 1873, most freedmen largely abandoned the plantations where they had worked for several generations in favor of the capital city, Paramaribo. In the meantime, many more workers had been imported from the Dutch East Indies, mostly Chinese inhabitants of that colony, creating a Chinese Surinamese population. From 1873 to 1916, many laborers were imported from India, creating the Indo-Surinamese. After 1916, many laborers were again imported from the Dutch East Indies, especially Java, creating the Javanese Surinamese.

Twentieth century

In the 20th century, the natural resources of Suriname, rubber, gold and bauxite, were exploited. The US company Alcoa had a claim on a large area in Suriname where bauxite, from which aluminum can be made, was found. Given that the peace treaties with the Maroon people granted them title to the lands, there have been international court cases that negated the right of the Surinam government to grant these claims (meaning the right to take the land for themselves and ignoring autonomy).

On November 23, 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States stationed troops in Suriname to protect the bauxite mines.

Decolonization

In 1949, the first full election was held. Julius Caesar de Miranda was elected as first Prime Minister of Suriname. As a member of the Colonial States, he had been critical of Governor Kielstra and had argued for end to subservience to the Ministry of Colonies.

In 1954, Suriname gained self-government, with the Netherlands retaining control of defence and foreign affairs. It would become one of three member states – the others being the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands under one Kingdom.

Coat of arms of Suriname (Dutch: Wapen van Suriname)

 

Independence

In 1973 the Dutch government started independence negotiations with the local government, led by the NPS (a largely Creole party), at the request of members of the NPS, which was granted on November 25, 1975. The Dutch instituted an aid programme worth US$1.5 billion to last till 1985. The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, with Henck Arron (leader of the NPS) as Prime Minister. Despite agreements with the new Surinam government roughly a third of the population emigrated to the Netherlands prior to and after independence, fearing that the new country would not be viable.[23] Also contrary to the agreements with the new Surinam government, many originally Dutch settlers (bakra’s/boeroes) were expropriated by the new Surinam Government.

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