New Amsterdam, Berbice (I)


In 1627, the Dutch settled at the mouth of the Berbice river, but until the end of the 17th century this colony, now British Guyana, was of little significance to the WIC. Upriver several posts were erected. An initial wooden fort, at a location on the Wironje Creek, was built by the colonists to defend themselves against the attacks of the indigenous population. Later this post would be abandoned to found a new fort slightly downstream, which would become known as Fort Nassau. The posts were situated near the plantations, most of which cultivated sugar, although some coffee and cotton was also grown. Some plantations specialized in cassave, the staple food for the indigenous population, and, increasingly, the colonists. Around the fort a settlement of some 25 or 30 houses soon developed. In the course of time the place became known as New Amsterdam, which formed the heart of the plantation colony. The fort housed the seat of government of Berbice. The fort was reinforced with a palissade and equipped with some cannon. Inside the fort, a large building served both as a warehouse and as garrison quarters, with the officers living upstairs. During a slave revolt in 1763 this post, like many along the Berbice river, was abandoned, the population seeking refuge at the fortification at Sint Andries, at the estuary of the Berbice river. After the revolt was suppressed, attempts were made to found a new headquarters near the destroyed fort Nassau, for which elaborate plans were drawn up. After the colony was successively occupied by the English and the French (between 1780 and 1784) these plans were abandoned, and it was decided to found a new seat of government near fort Sint Andries, at the estuary of the Berbice River. This town would similarly be called New Amsterdam.