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The Dutch Legacy of the Caribbean – Suriname

Suriname also officially known as the 'Republic of Suriname' is one of the smallest countries in South America and the world in general. It is bordered by the Atlantic ocean in the north, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.

The country derived its name from the first indigenous inhabitants in the area called ‘surinens’. like most small nations, Suriname has its own tale of colonialism. It was invaded by strong European force In the 16th century before coming under the Dutch rule in the 17th century.


Let’s take a look at Surinam’s journey from a plantation colony under the Dutch to an independent state.



Suriname first inhabitants are said to have dated back to 3,000 BC which saw the arrivals of the first Indians in the country. The country was relatively unnoticed until in the 16th century when it came under the microscope of French, Spanish and English explorers.


The country was named Suriname by Spanish explorers who visited the area. The Europeans made their first attempt to settle in the area in 1630 when English settlers led by Captain Marshall attempted to form a colony but failed.


in 1650, Lord Willoughby the governor of Barbados was determined to form a settlement in the area. He stormed out with ships loaded with guns as well as necessary tools needed for settling on the colony.


However, it was another English man major Anthony Rowse who finally settled there and named the settlement ‘willoughbyland’. The settlement consisted of 3,000 acres and deployed Indian and African slaves to work on the plantations.


The area was invaded by the Dutch and the settlement ‘willoughbyland’ was captured after long hours of combat. After the fort willoughbyland was taken from the british, it was renamed ‘fort Zealandia’ and later back to Suriname by the dutch. The Dutch and English signed the treaty of Breda where it was agreed that the Dutch could keep occupying Suriname while the British occupied the former Dutch colony in New Amsterdam.


Both parties struggled to keep up with the agreement as the British launched another attempt to capture Suriname but lost to the dutch again after it was recaptured.

The British had to wait a little longer to recapture Suriname. In 1799 the Dutch were merged together with France which gave them temporary ownership but the Dutch recaptured the territory in 1816.


During their short rule, the British brought many changes in place. Particularly the abolishment of slavery but it wasn’t till 1863 the rule was executed by the Dutch making them the last European nation to do away with slavery. It took additional 10 years for to the slaves gain full freedom as they were made to work on the plantation but the only difference is that they received payment.


The slaves left the plantations after given full freedom in 1873 and were replaced with foreign laborers from India, and Indonesia.  The instability in labor led to a decrease in the plantation output and value to the country’s economy.



Suriname’s quest for independence was given a boost in the 20th century. After the second world war, the in-exile Dutch government began to review the relations between the Netherlands and other colonies under it.


In 1954, Suriname gained its own recognition as a country under the kingdom of Netherland. The Dutch were however still in control of the countries defense and foreign affairs.

In 1974, the local government led by the national party of Suriname began negotiations with the Dutch government to grant full independence. The request was granted on the 25, November 1975, setting Suriname free from the jaws of colonialism.

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