Belize, 1638-1821

Belize is a thinly populated stretch of Atlantic rain forest, bordering on Mexico in the north-west and on Guatemala in the West. Populated mainly by Indios, the region had been disputed between the Spanish authorities and British; the British, although not permanently present, had had the upper hand.
There was a small British settlement at the town of Belize, which the British regarded their colony since 1798, although not accepted by the Spanish and their successors, the United Provinces of Central America respectively Guatemala; the borders were ill-defined, and the dictators of Guatemala attempted to annex Belize.

The first British residents sailors shipwrecked in 1638. In 1642 England took possession of the island of Ruatan, off the coast of Belize (British until 1850). In 1650 the British established a settlement at Cape Catoche. From the Treaty of Godolphin (July 8 1670) onward, (British) Honduras was regarded a British possession (by Britain, that is); yet Britain did not fully commit, refraining from formally establishing a colony and from establishing any fortifications or permanent structures on the mainland of British Honduras, until 1798.
In 1670, the King of the Mosquito (Miskito) Indians living on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua placed himself and his people under British protection. In 1675 the Spanish raided the English settlements between the rivers Tabasco and Campeton. The Spanish conquered Peten (Guatemala) in 1697, an area adjacent to British Honduras.
In 1742, Ruatan was fortified (none of the places on the mainland coast, though); in 1745 Ruatan was declared a British colony, placed under Jamaica. 1749 Captain Robert Hodgson appointed Superintendent of Mosquito Coast. In 1754, the Spanish invaded British Honduras coming from Peten; they were defeated in the Battle of Labouring Creek. In the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the British abandoned the Mosquito Coast, but soon after resumed their role as protectors. In 1768 Robert Hodgson was reappointed Superintendent; in 1774 the British attempted to land convicts on the Mosquito Coast. In 1775 the Church of England established herself in British Honduras. During the War of American Independence, the Spanish attacked St. George's Caye in 1779, took Ruatan in 1780. The Treaty of Paris 1783 restored prewar conditions. In 1787 the British evacuated the Mosquito Coast. In 1797, rebel Caribs from St. Vincent were resettled on Ruatan. The Spanish took Ruatan that year. A Spanish attack on St. George's Caye in 1798 was defeated.
In 1803 the British established the first fortification on the mainland, Fort George, in Belize harbour. In 1812 the Anglican church building in Belize was built, followed by Government House in 1814, the Honduras Free School in 1816. Belize Bridge, crossing Belize River, was completed in 1818, the New Court House built in 1819.

Article from Infoplease : Belize
DOCUMENTS Flag of British Honduras (1870) from FOTW
REFERENCE Tom Barry, Central America Inside Out, Grove Press 1991; see Belize Chronology, pp.49-51
Monrad Sigfrid Metzgen and Henry Edwy Conrad Cain, The Handbook of British Honduras, London : West India Committee 1925

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 27th 2003, last revied on November 5th 2004

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