While the British held little value on the land and
few ethnic British settled, the Dutch encouraged settlement
and made the region one of their strongest footholds in the Americas. This divide
later separated the lands into what is today Suriname (which
the Dutch essentially controlled) and what is today Guyana
(which the British essentially controlled).
The Dutch continued the trend of slavery and agriculture into the 1700s as they
grew cotton, coffee, cocoa, and sugarcane among others. They also continued bringing
in slaves from Africa, while the economy expanded as it relied
heavily on trade with the Netherlands.
Although the economy was improving, the individual land owners struggled as slaves
often escaped the plantations. Many of these escaped slaves had nowhere to flee
to except the nearby forests, which were dense. These escaped African
slaves began a new culture in the forests as they were called "maroons"
as they regularly raided the plantations for supplies and people.
This division among the people, between the native people, the maroons, the slaves
in captivity, and the Dutch was quite pronounced. Each
developed, or maintained, a unique culture over time with an entirely different
focus and way of life. As more slaves were brought into the country the slave and
maroon culture began to become the most populous, although these people had no economic
or political control.
The end of the 1700s and the early 1800s were a tumultuous time for
Suriname. In 1799 the British took over the
country as the Netherlands was pre-occupied with war
as France. The British legally freed the slaves, although
in reality they weren't granted freedom until 1873. However, at this time they
stopped bring in new slaves so their working population suffered and the Dutch turned
to Chinese, Indonesian, and
Indian (East Indian) immigrants for a new workforce.
Although the Dutch economic base in agriculture and
their control over the political system didn't change in the 1800s, the population
and dynamic did. Despite the fact that many of these new immigrants weren't
granted full rights, they, along with the former slaves, dominated the population
as they introduced new foods, languages, religions, and customs.
Into the 1900s this economic state continued, but there was more interest in the
land as gold and bauxite were discovered and the new labor force from
Asia provided much needed labor to exploit these mines. However political
stability was again a question as war broke out in Europe
and the Netherlands was occupied with World War I, then
World War II. During this time little attention was paid to Suriname
and at the end of World War II the people began demanding greater rights.
In 1945 Suriname had a primarily free election and in 1954
they gained self-rule, but not complete independence, which they didn't obtain
until 1975. Independence arrived with great growing pains and little optimism. Many
people, including most of the ethnic Dutch immigrated to the
Netherlands. Then the violence started as the early 1980s were riddled with
coups. By 1982 the government was run by a military dictatorship, which was killing
opposition party members without much hesitation.
The tensions have eased in recent years as free elections were held in 1985 and
have been held since, but political division and violence has not ended. These protests
seem to stem from control and culture as the maroons regularly initiate the protests
and the government regularly responds with violence.