Suriname was settled by Dutch from the Dutch province of Zeeland in the 17th century, although periods of British rule lasted until 1816. The colony was mostly utilized for sugar, coffee, and cocoa plantations, where many African slaves were worked to death.
Slavery was abolished in 1863, and contract laborers were recruited from British India (until 1916) and Java (until 1936). Many people remained after their contracts expired.
Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975, and many Surinamese fled to the Netherlands to preserve their Dutch identity. Five years later, the civilian government was overthrown by a military dictatorship that quickly proclaimed a socialist republic marked by high levels of government corruption and summary killings of political opponents. It ruled via a series of ostensibly civilian governments until 1987, when international pressure forced a democratic election. The military toppled the civilian government again in 1989, but a democratically elected administration returned to power in 1991.