A chronology of key events:
1498 - Christopher Columbus sights Guyana.
1580 - Dutch establish trading posts upriver.
1620 - Dutch West India Company establishes a
foothold in Guyana, including armed bases, and imports slaves from
Africa to work on the sugar plantations.
Ex-president Janet Jagan, who succeeded her husband
1780-1813 - Guyana changes hands several times between the Dutch, French and British.
1814 - Britain occupies Guyana during the Napoleonic Wars.
1831 - Guyana officially declared a British colony.
1834 - Slavery abolished; many slaves leave
plantations to set up their own freeholdings and are replaced by
indentured workers mainly from India.
1879 - Gold is discovered in Guyana and is followed by an economic boom.
1889 - Venezuela lays claim to a large portion of Guyana west of the Essequibo river.
1899 - International arbitration tribunal rules in
favour of Guyana (then called British Guiana) in the territorial
dispute with Venezuela.
British military intervention
1953 - Britain suspends Guyana's constitution,
sends in troops and installs an interim administration after democratic
elections for parliament produces a result not to its liking - a
victory for the left-wing Indo-Guyanese Progressive People's Party
1957 - Britain restores Guyanese constitution; PPP
splits along racial lines, with Cheddi Jagan leading a mostly Indian
party and Forbes Burnham leading a party of African descendants, the
People's National Congress (PNC).
1961 - Guyana granted full autonomy, with Britain
retaining control over internal and defence matters; Jagan of the PPP
becomes prime minister.
1962 - Venezuela revives its territorial claims on
Guyana; Jagan introduces austerity programme, sparking off violent
riots and a general strike; British troops sent in to restore order.
1963 - Racial violence between people of African origins and Indian supporters of Jagan.
1966 - Guyana becomes independent with Burnham as prime minister.
1970 - Guyana becomes a republic within the British Commonwealth with Raymond Arthur Chung as titular president.
1978 - Nine hundred members of a religious cult commit mass suicide.
1980 - Guyana gets a new constitution and Burnham becomes the country's first executive president.
Economic decline, elections
1985 - Desmond Hoyte (PNC) becomes president following the death of Burnham; economy begins to deteriorate.
1992 - The first completely free
parliamentary elections since independence result in victory for the
PPP; Cheddi Jagan becomes president and embarks on a programme of
Former president Cheddi Jagan
1997 - Jagan dies and is eventually replaced by his wife, Janet, after elections.
1998 - Government declares state of emergency in
the capital, Georgetown, in response to violent riots amid allegations
of discrimination by the PPP against people of African descent.
1999 - Bharrat Jagdeo becomes president after Janet Jagan resigned for health reasons.
2000 - Guyana's long-running dispute with Surinam
over their offshore border comes to a head when Surinam gunboats evict
an oil exploration rig from the area. Guyana had approved the
exploration in the oil-rich disputed zone.
2002 July - TV presenter Mark Benschop is charged
with treason. Court says he encouraged a protest in which presidential
complex was stormed by demonstrators, who were complaining of
discrimination against Guyanese of African descent.