Guyana: An Indentureship Timeline

Steam Ship Bruce

1837 – John Gladstone suggests East Indian indentured labour as a solution to the drifting of Africans from the plantations to the towns. Permission is granted to bring ‘Coolies’ for his two plantations.

1838 – The first indentured labourers drawn from the hill areas of South India, arrive in Guiana. 156 East Indians arrive from Calcutta on the “Hesperus”. They are under indenture for a five year period, and for the first part, they are housed and given rations, but are not paid. Great mistreatment of the labourers result in prosecution of some of the planters.

1839 – Four hundred German Rinelanders and Wurtembergers are enticed to British Guiana. (Almost all succumb to tropical diseases).

1843 – The end of the first period of indenture. Many of the labourers return to India.

The 1840’s – England suspends the indentured labourer system. Immigrant labour from India, Portugal (mainly Madeira) and China is permitted, under Government control.

1853 – January 12th. The first contract Chinese labourers arrive in British Guiana on the “Glentanner”. Most are assigned to Windsor Forest, Pouderoyen and La Jelousie estates.

1856 – February 18th,Georgetown riots – property of Portuguese destroyed.

1860 – March 11th. The first female Chinese labourers arrive on the “Whirlwind”.

1874 – The last contract Chinese labourers arrive in Demerara.

1900 – October 18. The Jagans, Cheddi’s parents, left Calcutta in the “Elbe”. Arrived Demerara on January 5th, 1901.

1917 – The Government of India abolishes the indentured system. No more East Indian labour is allowed to enter Guiana.

1928 – March 19. Cheddi Jagan born.

1948 – The Enmore Tragedy occurs, with an attack against militant sugarcane workers. Workers Lallabagee Kissoon, Pooran, Rambarran, Dookhie, and Harry are killed. Later known as the Enmore Martyrs.

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