Mayan culture flourished in Belize until the
9th century, when, for unknown reasons, it began to fall
apart. The first Europeans came in the 16th century.
Eventually the English gained control of the area, which
became the colony of British Honduras. In the middle of
the 20th century, demands for independence began to
emerge. The colony gained internal autonomy in 1964 and
the name was changed to Belize in 1973.
Although the high-ranking Mayan civilization had
perished, the Mayan people remained in the area when
Europeans, mainly Spaniards, arrived. The indigenous
people fought the Spanish colonizers but were weakened
by illnesses brought by the Europeans.
In the 1600s, the Spaniards faced competition from
English pirates, who settled on the coast. According to
legend, one of the pirates, Peter Wallace, of the
Spaniards called "Ballis" named the river Belize. The
English acquired slaves from Africa who were set to cut
down Kampesch trees, whose red dye was used in the
English wool industry.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Belize, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Spain and England's conflict over the area lasted
until the end of the 18th century, when Spain gave up.
At the beginning of the 19th century, both Mexico and
Guatemala claimed territory. However, the British
resisted all pressure. British Honduras became a British
colony and was raised after eight years, 1871, to the
The colony's main export goods were battle wood and
mahogany. When the prices of these goods fell sharply,
the position of the local white elite weakened and
capital companies from London bought up land. In 1875,
Belize Estate and Produce Company was formed, which came
to own half the country and dominate the economy for
over a hundred years. In the late 1800s, well-ordered
African-bred Creoles began to demand political rights,
but not until the end of the 1920s were they admitted
into the colonial legislature.
During the worldwide economic depression in the
1930s, mahogany exports almost completely ceased and
unemployment rose sharply. Then only the wealthiest two
percent of the population had the right to vote.
Workers' organizations that demanded political
participation were formed.
In the 1940s, a nationalist movement emerged that
demanded independence from Britain. In 1950, the
movement was transformed into the left-wing People's
United Party (PUP) and under its pressure, voting rights
for literate adults were introduced in 1954. The same
year elections were held in Parliament and the PUP won a
superior victory over the National Party (NP), the
colonial establishment party.
British Honduras gained internal autonomy in 1964,
but Britain continued to manage its internal security,
defense and international relations. The Crown Colony's
name was changed to Belize in 1973, but independence
would take another eight years.