The Settlement of Indians in Guyana 1890-1930
As Guyana struggles to overcome its legacy of ethnic hostility between Indo- and Afro-Guyanese, this is a timely and unbiased study of the historical processes which led in part to these divisions.
Dale Bisnauth
ISBN number
Country setting
Publication date
01 Jun 2000

It focuses on the crucial period when Indian indentured labourers became a permanent part of Guyanese society. It explores both the inner processes of Indian settlement and the beginnings of that community's political involvement with the wider society and relationships with the Afro-Guyanese.

It charts how, in the process, Indian peasants were transformed into industrialised wage labourers on the sugar estates, rice farmers and urban professionals. In exploring how a distinctive Indo-Guyanese culture emerged, Dale Bisnauth counters the tendency amongst some sectors of the Indo-Guyanese community to deny the humble, low-caste origins of those who were its makers. His is a history that gives full weight to the efforts of the nameless and forgotten to shape their lives.

The book also looks frankly at the ethnic considerations which shaped relationships between the Indo-Guyanese and the wider Guyanese society. In looking critically at the divide and rule policies of successive colonial governments, and situating both Africans and Indians in a common history of exploitation, Dale Bisnauth's study offers a clear and insightful basis for contemporary understanding of the role of ethnicity in a plural society and a cogent discussion of the processes of settlement and cultural change.

Simon Lee writes in Caribbean Beat: 'Dale Bisnauth, Guyana’s current Minister of Education, has provided an exhaustive study of the Indian community during the period in which it became the most significant element in Guyanese society. This vital document on the region’s largest Indian settlement and culture traces the history of ethnic hostility against a background of colonial exploitation and divide-and-rule strategy, and makes an important contribution to understanding not only the South Asian diaspora but also the complexities of Caribbean society.

See the related essay /discover/people-who-came/indian-caribbeans


Dale Bisnauth

Dale Bisnauth was born in rural Guyana in 1936. His parents were farmers as were their parents. He attended the Unity Theological College of the West Indies (Jamaica), where he was trained for the ministry of the Guyana Presbyterian Church, having been converted from his Hindu background to Christianity at the age of fifteen. He read for a Ph D in History at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica) where he had earlier obtained a BA.
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