King's College London
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‘The paradise of the world’: conflict and society in the Caribbean


Colour illustration showing the Carib inhabitants crushing sugar cane and making Cassava breadView of the Sambura settlement on the Upper Pomeroon, from: William Henry Brett. The Indian tribes of Guiana ... London: Bell and Daldy, 1868 [FCDO Historical Collection F2380 BRE]The Anglican missionary William Henry Brett (1818-86) was sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to open a mission station on the Pomeroon River in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1840.

After his ordination in 1848 he was appointed rector of Holy Trinity parish at Essequibo and was given oversight of the missions at Pomeroon and Moruca.

He worked among the Carib, Arawak, Warao and several other native peoples of Guyana, making a close study of their languages, compiling dictionaries and grammars and even developing writing systems for some of them. He also studied the social life, customs and religions of the indigenous groups which he encountered and reported his observations in the scholarly press. His anthropological writings remain of interest to scholars to this day.

In this work Brett notes sadly that since the appearance of Europeans in their land the indigenous peoples of Guyana had been in continuous decline. Indeed, one group, the Arimipas had died out completely since his arrival in Guyana and others, such as the Atorais and Maopityans, were on the brink of such a fate.

The plate on display shows the Sambura settlement on the Upper Pomeroon with the Carib inhabitants crushing sugarcane and making Cassava bread.

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