Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

James Siekmeier

Committee Co-Chair

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Kenneth Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Joseph Hodge

Committee Member

Alan McPherson


This dissertation argues that an internationalized struggle for control of British Guiana's trade unions after 1946 resulted in institutional dysfunction and violence in the early 1960s. Some Guianese nationalists, who eventually became leaders of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), wanted to replace the institutions imported from Great Britain with trade unionism geared towards a Guianese version of communism. Conversely, reformist Guianese labor leaders were intent on establishing a left-leaning capitalist framework of labor relations, primarily based on a British model of unionism. Guianese unionists' ideological proclivities shaped their international affiliations, adding a transnational dimension to the struggle between the colony's nationalist leaders. Thus, this dissertation argues that key British, American, and Eastern-bloc trade union connections were established in the colony in the late 1940s, well before the violent conclusion to Guianese decolonization.;Meanwhile, economic weakness, international pressure, and strategic calculations, convinced British policymakers to allow self-government in the colonies after assuring the territories were integrated into a British-led capitalist system. United States policymakers turned their attention to British Guiana when it became evident that the PPP represented a threat to break the colony's connections with the West and undermine American hegemony at the height of the Cold War. Thus, this dissertation analyzes decolonization and the Cold War through a single analytical frame, arguing that the two dynamics were mutually reinforcing.;In response to the PPP's pursuit of social revolution, the Colonial Office engaged in institution-building projects to preserve pro-British capitalism in the colony. Simultaneously, American trade unionists and policymakers pursued institution-building to replace British influence and design Guiana's post-colonial labor relations based on American trade union practices. This dissertation demonstrates that British trade unionists deferred to American labor leaders in British Guiana after 1960, and argues that the colony's transition into the American sphere of influence among non-governmental actors preceded the end of formal British rule in the colony.