Belize: key historical events

Page last modified 21 August 2023


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See also South and Central America


Demography of Belize


2000, Guatemala restated its claim to half of Belize.

1998, The People’s United Party won a major general election victory.

21/9/1981. Belize formerly British Honduras, became independent from Britain.  This was the last British colony on the American mainland.  A border dispute with Guatemala, which had delayed independence, remained unresolved.

1/6/1973. The British colony of British Honduras was officially renamed Belize.  See 21/9/1981.

1972, Guatemala threatened to invade British Honduras. Britain sent troops to the country.

4/8/1970, The government of British Honduras (now Belize) officially moved from Belize City into the new city of Belmopan, as Premier George Price convened the first cabinet meeting in the new capital.

1954, British Honduras now had full adult suffrage.

1950, The United People’s Partuy was formed. The voting age for women was lowered from 30 to 21.

1936, British Honduras adopted a new constitution; there was a limited franchise.

1919, Black Belizeans returning from World War One demanded more political rights.

1862, British Honduras became a British Crown Colony. The 1836 claim,and the 1850 Treaty exemption, had effectively cemented British claims on the territory, despite the 1814 Treaty.

1859, The Bay Islands, off British Honduras, were recognised as part of Honduras.

1850, British Honduras was specifically excluded from the provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which forbade both Great Britain and the United States from fortifying any point on the Central American mainland.

1836, Britain claimed, as a colony, the territory between the Belize and Sarstoon Rivers.

1821, Guatemala claimed sovereignty over British Honduras.

1819, Central American becan a process of gaining independence from Spain, more or less completed by 1822; Britain secured its relationship with the new States by incorporating the provisions of the 1786 Treaty in its treaties with New Granada (1825), Mexico (1826) and the United States of Central America (1831).However see 1836.

1814, A new treaty signed between Britian and Spain revived the provisions of the 1786 Treaty. Up until 1819, Acts of Parliament in Britain referred to the area as a ‘settlement’, not a British colony, but see 1819, 1836.

1802, British sovereignty over the area was recognised by the Treaty of Amiens.

10/7/1798, A Spanish invasion force was met with determined resistance by the British, who had fortified an island called St George’s Cay. The Spanish were compelled to withdraw to Campeachy, and did not attempt any further incursions. This event is claimed as the start of British sovereignty by some Belizeans, but see 1814.

1786, The territorial rights of British loggers were extended to the area between the Rivers Belize and Sibun (Jabon). However the Spanish retained sovereignty, but actually enforcing this sovereignty on a lawless population was another matter.

3/9/1783, British log-cutters returned to Belize during 1783 and this day a Treaty was signed giving British log-cutters the right tio cut trees between the Rivers Wallis (Belize) and Rio Hondo. However this was “not to be considered as derogating from the rights of sovereignty of the King of Spain”.

15/9/1779, Belize was invaded by a Spanish force. Prisoners were taken to Yucatan, then Havana,l where most died; the survivors were freed and allowed to go to Jamaica in 1782. However see 3/9/1783.

1798, Spain continued to claim sovereignty over the area, despite 1670.

4/1754, An invasion force of 1,500 Spaniards was successfully resisted by 250 British, due to the difficulty of landing armed forces in Belize.

1670, Spain recognised British rights in the uncolonised area bordered by the Sarstoon River; however see 1798.

1638, British log-cutters, many formerly buccaneers, began to settle the Belize region. Subsequent Spanish efforts to claim sovereignty over the area were successfully resisted by these loggers.


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