British Guiana

British Guiana was formerly a British colony and a constituent of the British West Indies situated on the northern coast of South America. The country gained its independence in 1966 and adopted the name Guyana.

Between the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and emancipation in the 1830s, the slave economy thrived, benefiting a group of absentee slave owners residing in Britain, particularly in Glasgow and Liverpool.

Initially, the economy of British Guiana was heavily reliant on sugarcane production. However, in the 1880s, a decline in cane sugar prices prompted a shift toward rice farming, mining, and forestry. Nonetheless, sugarcane remained a crucial component of the economy, accounting for almost half of the exports in 1959. During the Dutch era, settlement and economic activity were concentrated around sugarcane plantations located inland from the coast. Later, under British rule, the cultivation of cane expanded to the more fertile coastal lands, which were better protected by the coastline.

Prior to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, sugar planters relied almost exclusively on slave labor to produce sugar. In 1823, Georgetown was the site of a significant slave rebellion.

After the British captured the colonies from the Dutch, the Guianan guilder replaced the Dutch guilder at par. The guilder was initially divided into 20 Stuivers and Brazilian pecas which were called joes. Banknotes in 1, 2, 3, and 10 joes were used until the country started issuing dollar-denominated banknotes in 1916.

British West Indies dollars replaced the banknotes produced specifically for British Guiana in 1942 and were decimalized and issued under the name of the British Caribbean Territories, Eastern Group in 1955.  

The East Caribbean dollar then replaced the British West Indies dollar in 1965, and circulated in British Guiana for a year until the country gained independence in 1966. At that point, the Guyanese dollar was introduced and replaced the East Caribbean dollar at par, marking the latest evolution in the currency system of the region.


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