History of Belize

Numerous ruins indicate that for hundreds of years Belize was heavily populated by the Maya Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height between A.D. 300 and 900. The civilization collapsed and many of the people migrated. In 1502, Columbus sailed into and named the Bay of Honduras but he did not actually visit the area later known as British Honduras.

The first recorded European settlement was established in 1683 by shipwrecked British sailors. These were later augmented by disbanded British soldiers and sailors after the capture of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. The settlement, whose main activity was logwood cutting, had a troubled history during the next 150 years. It was subjected to numerous attacks from neighboring Spanish settlements.

It was only in 1763 that Spain in the Treaty of Paris allowed the British settlers to engage in the logwood industry. This was reaffirmed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 and the area of logwood concession was extended by the Convention of London in 1786. But Spanish attacks continued until a decisive victory was won by settlers, with British naval support, in the Battle of St. George's Caye in 1798.

After that British control over the settlement gradually increased and in 1862 British Honduras was formally declared a British Colony. From an early date the settlers had governed themselves under a system of primitive democracy by Public Meeting. A constitution based on this system was granted in 1765 and this, with some modification continued until 1840 when an Executive Council was created. The Crown Colony system of Government was introduced in 1871, and the Legislative Assembly by its own vote was replaced by a nominated Legislative Council with an official majority presided over by the Lieutenant Governor.

The administrative connection with Jamaica was severed in 1884, when the title of Lieutenant Governor was changed to that of Governor. Further constitutional advances came in 1954 with the introduction of universal adult suffrage and an elected majority in the Legislature; the ministerial system was adopted in 1961. The country's name was changed on 1st June, 1973, from British Honduras to Belize. Independence was achieved on September 21, 1981 and a new independence constitution introduced

Historical Sites

Baron Bliss Lighthouse : Bliss Institute : Government House :
St. John's Cathedral : Supreme Court : Swing Bridge : Old Sugar Mill
Mayan Ruins

Baron Bliss Lighthouse

The tomb of Baron Bliss, one of Belize's greatest benefactors. In honor of his memory, the 9th of March is celebrated as a public and bank holiday. A lighthouse was erected recalling his love for the sea.

Bliss Institute

This is the center of Belizean culture. Houses permanent exhibition of Maya artifacts from Caracol. On Bliss Promenade. National Arts Council is also located here.

Government House Museum

Built for the governors of Belize, it is one of the more elegant colonial structures in Belize City. Visiting dignitaries are entertained here. The Government House stands as an important landmark in the history of Belize. For the past two hundred years, the house was used as an administrative office and residence of the British governors of Belize. The Museum Exhibition reflects the theme 'Reflections in the History of Government House', and includes Archival Records, SilverWare and GlassWare Collections, Furniture Collection, and a Maritime Collection.

St. John's Cathedral

The oldest cathedral in Central America. The foundation stone was laid in 1812. Four Mosquito Coast Kings were crowned here. St. John's is the only Anglican cathedral in the world outside England where the crowning of kings took place.

Supreme Court

Burned down in 1918 and restored in 1923. The architectural style is colonial. It still retains its 1923 appearance today. Paslow Building: Corner of North Front Street and Queen Street. Another example of colonial architecture in the city. The building houses the General Post Office and other government offices.

Swing Bridge

This historic colonial bridge is still manually operated twice daily to allow fishing boats and other vessels to enter into the Belize River.

Old Sugar Mill

Built in the early 1900s, this sugar mill was imported from the Leeds Foundry in New Orleans. Ft. Cairns and Mundy: In Orange Walk Town near the police station. Ft. Cairns is now the new town hall. Ft. Mundy is a government rest home and historical center of the battles between Belizean settlers and Maya Indians.

Petrojam Factory: South of Corozal in Libertad. Tours by special request to the sugar cane factory - taste the sweetness of raw sugar cane.

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