The information provided below is from the back cover of a new book released from Macimillan Caribbean (www.macimillan-caribbean.com), Belize: A Concise History, by Peter Thomson (ISBN 0-333-77925-8).
"The small Central American state of Belize has an unusual history. It was an important part of the pre-Columbian Mayan civilisation, which also embraced most of Guatemala, northern Honduras, and southern Mexico. Having fallen between three early Spanish colonial jurisdictions, Belize was then settled in the seventeenth century by British adventurers, many of them ex-buccaneers. They were in search of logwood, a tropical softwood the heart of which was in demand in Europe as a vegetable dye. The British government, while upholding the right of the settlers to live and work there, never challenged the sovereignty of Spain over the territory, and indeed recognised it in two eighteenth century treaties. But they refused to accept later Guatemalan and Mexican claims to inheritance of Spanish sovereignty. The consequences of the former dispute live on today. Meanwhile British Honduras, now Belize, underwent a series of transformations. Logwood gave way to Mahogany as a basis for the economy. As mahogany resources were depleted, a number of attempts at diversification eventually resulted in the present sugar, banana, citrus and tourist industries. In parallel, the early tradition of government by magistrates elected by a very small white minority evolved, via a hundred and ten years of colonial rule, into the fully democratic sovereign statehood of today. This book traces the outline of this complex story in as objective a way as possible, allowing the facts recorded in files in London and Belize to speak for themselves."--Peter Thomson served as British High Commissioner in Belize from 1987 to 1990.