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French Guiana History Timeline

1400s - 1600s
  • (1498) Christopher Columbus sailed to region, named it "Land of pariahs".
  • (1500) Spanish explorer Vicente Yanez de Pinzon sighted coastline
  • (1604) French explorer, Daniel de La Ravardiere led expedition
  • (1624) French established Cayenne settlement
  • (1654 - 1664) Cayenne occupied by Dutch
  • (1654) African slaves brought to French Guiana
  • (1656) Dutch Jews built sugarmill at Cayenne
  • (1664) French established Sinnemary
  • (1667) The Netherlands and Great Britain, under terms of Treaty of Breda, recognized French claims
  • (1674) Guiana came under control of France, agricultural development began
1700s
  • (1713) Treaty of Utrecht established boundary between French Guiana and Brazil
  • (1764) Recruitment campaign in eastern provinces of France persuaded 15,000 Alsatians and Lorrainers to go to colony in Guiana; 12,000 died first year from yellow fever, dysentery, malaria
  • (1791) National Assembly declared men of color, born to free parents to have equal rights as whites
  • (1794) Slavery abolished
  • (1796) Slavery officially reinstated, slave rebellion and repression followed
  • (1797) French Guiana organized as department of France
1800s
  • (1800) Victor Hugues became governor
  • (1801) French Guiana became colony
  • (1804) Leaders of slave revolt, Simeon and Adome, captured and executed
  • (1809 - 1817) Portuguese and Brazilians occupied French Guiana
  • (1817) French Guiana restored to France
  • (1848) Slavery abolished; 16,000 slaves left colony plantations, caused collapse of the agricultural economy
  • (1852) Devil's Island established as penal colony; due to overcrowding of facilities, prisoners put to work on coffee plantations
  • (1854) Penal colony established at Saint Georges, convicts helped build town, over two-thirds of prisoners died due to ill treatment, harsh climate, suicide
  • (1855) Brazilian Joseph Paolino, made gold discovery on Arataye River
  • (1856) Yellow fever struck French Guiana
  • (1870) Jean-Louis Loubere appointed governor, initiated public works to provide drinking water, built roads
  • (1879) French Guiana granted 16-member elective general council
  • (1894) Experimental garden with 8,200 acres established at Baduel, crops included creals, rice, coffee, cacao, sugarcane
  • (1895) French Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, convicted of treason, stripped of rank, imprisoned on Devil's Island
  • (1897) France, Brazil signed arbitration treaty settling boundary dispute
  • (1899) Alfred Dreyfus vindicated, released from Devil's Island
1900s - 2000s
  • (1920) La Societe des Transports Aeriens Guyanais, French Guiana's first airline, founded
  • (1922) Airline failed after accident
  • (1930) French Guiana divided into two territories: Inini in the interior, Guiana along the coast
  • (1934) Henri "Papillon" Charriere, convicted thief, escaped from prison, went to Colombia
  • (1938) Transporation of convicts to French Guiana ended
  • (1946) Penal colony on Devil's Island abolished; 145 convicts returned to Marseilles, France
  • (1946) Innini, French Guiana reunited
  • (1964) French president, Charles de Gaulle, built space-travel base in French Guiana
  • (1986) Survivors of Moiwana massacre, other residents, fled to French Guiana during Suriname Guerrilla War
  • (1996) European Space Agency Ariane 5 rocket destroyed when it veered off-course after take-off from Kourou, French Guiana
  • (2003) Europe's first moon mission took off from French Guiana
  • (2010) Voters overwhelmingly rejected proposal to give local government more autonomy while still remaining part of France

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.