Suriname – A History

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Emergence of the Nation. Suriname was a classical Caribbean enslavement plantation society. In the 1650s, English colonists and Sephardic Jews from Holland via Brazil introduced the cultivation of sugar. When the Dutch took over from the British in 1667, fifty sugar plantations were operating. After a decrease in the number of estates, Suriname developed into a prosperous colony producing sugar and later coffee, cacao, and cotton. In the nineteenth century, the value of these products dropped sharply, although sugar exports were more stable.

In 1788, enslaved Africans and African Americans numbered fifty thousand out of a total population of fifty-five thousand, yet there were only few major rebellions. By 1770, five to six thousand Maroons – enslaved Africans who freed themselves – were living in the interior (rain forest). After waging protracted guerrilla wars, they established independent societies.

Between 215,000 and 250,000 enslaved Africans were shipped to Suriname, mostly from West Africa.

Slavery was not abolished until 1863. After a ten-year period in which enslaved African

Americans had to perform paid work on the plantations, contract laborers from Asia were imported to replace them. Between 1873 and the end of World War I, 34,304 contract laborers called coolies, from British India (the Hindustani) arrived. A second flow of immigrants came from the Dutch East Indies, bringing almost 33,000 Javanese contract laborers between 1890 and 1939. The idea was that the Asian immigrants would return to their homelands as soon as their contracts had expired, but most remained.

The policy of the Dutch colonial administration was one of brutal oppression: all African customs, traditions, languages, and laws had to give way to Dutch language, law, and Jewish culture. The introduction of compulsory education in 1876 was another aspect of this policy.

Javanese and Hindustani traditions proved so strong that in the 1930s oppression was replaced by overt ethnic diversity. Against the will of the influential light-skinned Creole elite, the governor recognized so-called Asian marriages and other Asian cultural traditions.

The Creole elite increased its influence in the wake of a political process that started in 1942, when the Dutch promised their colonies more autonomy. The Creole slogan “Boss in our own home” expressed the prevailing feeling. Before the first general elections in 1949, a number of political parties were formed, mostly on an ethnic basis. In 1954, Suriname became an semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

World War II had a profound effect on the nation’s socio-economic structure. The presence of U.S. troops to protect bauxite mines and transport routes led to an increase in employment and migration from the rural districts to Paramaribo and the mining centers. This urbanization gradually made Paramaribo a multi-ethnic city, and the proportion of Creoles in the urban population dwindled.

The position of the light-skinned Creole elite was challenged by the so-called fraternization policy, which involved political cooperation among non-elite Creoles and Hindustani. Creole nationalism later led to Hindustani opposition. Despite the strong resistance of the Hindustani party and the fact that the cabinet had only small majority in the parliament, a Creole-Javanese coalition led the nation – against the will of the people – to independence on 25 November 1975.

National Identity. After independence, Suriname attempted to bring about a process of integration that would transcend ethnic, social, and geographic barriers. That process was accelerated by the military regime that gained power on 25 February 1980, but lost popular backing when it committed gross violations of human rights during the so-called “December murders” of 1982. In 1987, the transition to democracy restored the “old political parties” to power. Race, class, and ethnicity continue to play an overwhelming role in national life.

Source: http://www.everyculture .com/Sa-Th/Suriname#ixzz2KA3t37FF





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One thought on “Suriname – A History

  1. […] and 250,000 [enslaved Africans] were shipped to Suriname, mostly from West Africa.  See this nice post to get more information on the plantations and […]

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