First settled by the Dutch West Indian Company about 1620, the territory was captured by Britain to whom it was ceded in 1814 and named British Guiana. To work the sugar plantations African slaves were transported here in the 18th century and East Indian and Chinese indentured labourers in the 19th century. From 1950 the anti-colonial struggle was spearheaded by the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) led by Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. but after its election with a left-wing programme in the elections of 1953 the British government suspended the constitution. By the time internal autonomy was granted in 1961 Burnham had split with Jagan to form the more moderate People’s National Congress (PNC). After much conflict, instigated by Britain and the USA who tried to destabilise Jagan’s PPP government of 1961-64, Guyana became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1966 with Burnham as the first prime minister.
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