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It was governed as British Guiana, with mostly a plantation style economy until the 1950s.
It gained independence in 1966, and officially became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970.
Although Christopher Columbus sighted Guyana during his third voyage (in 1498), and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote an account of its discovery in 1596, the Dutch were the first to establish colonies: Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627), and Demerara (1752).More than 300 children were killed; the people were members of a group led by Jim Jones in Jonestown, the settlement which they had created.Jim Jones's bodyguards had earlier attacked people taking off at a small remote airstrip close to Jonestown, killing five people, including Leo Ryan, a US congressman.In 1899 an international tribunal ruled the land belonged to Great Britain.
The British territorial claim stemmed from Dutch involvement and colonization of the area also dating to the sixteenth century, which was ceded to the British.The four longest rivers are the Essequibo at 1,010 kilometres (628 mi) long, the Courantyne River at 724 kilometres (450 mi), the Berbice at 595 kilometres (370 mi), and the Demerara at 346 kilometres (215 mi).