- Formerly known as British Honduras
- Population: about 333,000
- Official language: English
- Other languages: Kriol, Spanish, Garifuna, Maya
- Currency: Belize dollar - BZD
- Time Zone: CST - Central Standard Time
- Government: Parliamentary democracy
- Districts: Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann, Toledo
- Climate: Tropical
- Economy: based primarily on agriculture and tourism
- Religion: 80% Christianity; also, Hinduism and Islam
Prior to the arrival of the European settlers, Belize was populated by the Mayan civilization. Spreading from the Yucatán Peninsula in 2600 BC, the Maya settled throughout much of modern-day Mexico and Central America. The civilization consisted of many independent polities, each with central leaders and elite classes. The society prospered until about AD 800; the reason for this cultural "collapse" will be examined throughout the ENST 485 course.
After the Mayan reign, Belize was settled by Spanish and English colonists, although England eventually dominated Spain. The country became a British Crown Colony in 1862. After World War II, the nation sought Constitutional reforms and was granted independence from Britain in 1964. It was renamed from British Honduras to Belize in 1973. Today, the dominant political parties are the People's United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP). Currently, the UDP is in power.