Need for history book on Guyana To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
December 10, 2001

Does Guyana have a history book covering the last fifty years, focusing specifically on the decade or two immediately preceding independence as well as the post-independence years? I ask because I am not aware of any such book, and if there is none, not only is it shameful, but it is a wake-up call for those responsible to make it happen.

Almost two decades ago, a former BIDCO Chairman, Bernard Crawford, in a speech to some graduates in Linden, lamented the absence of a structured compilation of facts on events in Guyana that could be referred to from a historical perspective.

It was, and still seems, to be a sad commentary that our people seem to have no access to one unified and comprehensive document on our past, and which could be used as reference by generations to come.

As a Central High School student in 1970, I learned about Guyana's six races by P. H. Daly, and it was one of the most well-researched attempts at putting some aspect of our society in comprehensive perspective.

But the 1970s became the decade of the world energy crisis and its related impact on the beginning of Guyana's socio-economic decline. A decline that led to our people's apparent focus on surviving rather than becoming au fait with our history through reading, if anything truthful and reliable could be found.

Dr. Cheddi Jagan's "The West On Trial," as provocative and insightful as it may be, arguably provided a political perspective, but it was limited to a specific time when he was Prime Minister, Hamilton Green also attempted to put into perspective some aspect of our history covering either the fifties or sixties. I could be wrong, but I think Janet Jagan did a piece also related to our contemporary history.

The problem is, these are all politicians and the suspicion of having 'an axe to grind' could easily be assumed. If there were nonpolitical writers of local history their works either lacked publicity or anything new to inspire reading. Or maybe the facts were presented by different writers making for fragmented reading. In this case, how can we have some kind of harmony?

The recent exchange of letters emanating from the call for a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with the racial conflagration between Guyana's two major races, further caused to be raised the question as to why Guyana does not have a comprehensive history book that would have put this into perspective?

Such a book also could well have covered from the era when local political waves were made against British colonialism in the forties and fifties, to the post-Independence events and developments that characterized Guyana as a nation up until the end of the last millennium.

In a somewhat related issue, B. W. Parris' letter "Linden needs a museum" (SN -Dec. 4) also echoed the cry for the preservation of a piece of history on the bauxite mining community that could forever be lost if some erstwhile attempts are not made to salvage what remains, or to obtain individual accounts from those who lived through times of the Linden community's earlier years. By the way, how are we doing at preserving historical sites and landmarks?

(For B. W. Parris' interest, during my years with the bauxite company in Linden, there was a building that housed miniaturized versions of the bauxite operations, along with photographs and pertinent data about the enclave's early years. A gentleman by the name of James "Jimmy" Hamilton - if he's still in Guyana - has been closely associated with explaining these to tourists of the operations. These replicas and data may be useful in any attempt at building a museum).

Now, in order to have near-infallible recordings of our history over the last fifty years, it may take a tremendous amount of research and painful deciphering of what is truth and what is speculation or hearsay. Nevertheless, I do think the time is ripe for Guyana to have a history book, titled something like: "GUYANA: A look at the last half of the 20th Century", covering all the areas of interest and concern.

Sounds like a project for the University of Guyana?
Emile Mervin,

Brooklyn, New York