Constructing on the Wild Coast

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Lock works at Leonsberg, Suriname (source: authors)

At the end of October, LM Publishers released the book Constructing on the Wild Coast (‘Bouwen aan de Wilde Kust’). The book describes the design and construction of all kind of infrastructure in Suriname until 1945.

Infrastructure is an important part of the Surinamese cultural landscape. Especially in the coastal plains, human interventions have radically altered the original situation. Impressive (and less impressive) roadworks and hydraulic works can be seen everywhere – or no longer can be seen, as a lot of it has been demolished over the years. Suriname does not look the same as it did in 1680, largely because of the physical infrastructure that has been built since then.

That infrastructure determines where people now live and work and how they get around. It is also responsible for the very fact that the majority of the country’s inhabitants are there. Without plantations, no slaves or contract labourers would have been brought over from Africa and Asia. This is the first time that a book about Suriname’s infrastructure has been published. That makes it unique, and not only relevant for interested people in Suriname and the Netherlands but also for technological, social, geographical and historical educational purposes.

Constructing on the Wild Coast, which is appearing on the eve of the 49th anniversary of Suriname’s independence as a nation describes the design and construction of its infrastructure until 1945: plantations, canals, polders, roads, bridges, locks and railway tracks. It also relates the many plans for roads, railways and canals that were never realised. In addition, it discusses the people who played an important role in bringing about these works as well as the institutional aspects: what were the political and administrative contexts in which this infrastructure was realised?

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