Arawak and Carib Indians lived on the northern edges of South America for centuries. In 1498, the Spanish explorer, Alonso de Ojeda (accompanying Columbus on his second voyage to the New World) is generally considered the first European to discover what is now called Suriname.
Dutch settlement on the continent began in the early 17th century at the mouths of several rivers between present-day Georgetown, Guyana - and Cayenne, French Guiana; with Suriname becoming a Dutch colony in 1667.
Even though the English briefly held the land, it was the Dutch that controlled and influenced Suriname for almost 300 years.
Over time, the Dutch colonial plantations began to decline, as the distant Dutch government was supplying less financial support to its colony.
In the early 20th century - a turn around - when the American firm ALCOA invested in the indigenous bauxite deposits, and Suriname's economy surged, and it became the world's leading supplier of same.
Later in the century, on the long road to independence, Suriname became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and finally gained independence on November 25, 1975.
Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared Suriname a socialist republic. It continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election.
In 1989, the military replaced (overthrew) the civilian government, but a democratically-elected government returned to power in 1991, and remains to this day.