The Mayans first settled in Belize around 1000 BC; since then they built several Mayan cities such as Caracol and Lamanai and developed agricultural communities in the area. At their heights, the Mayas had a population of more than one million people. Around 1500 AD, the Mayans then largely disappeared. After Christopher Columbus reached Central America in 1802, the British came and settled in Belize, setting up trading posts and bases used by those who turned into pirates to make a living to harass the Spaniards who were busy shipping gold, silver and other things from their Central and South American territories to Europe. The Spaniards tried to expel them but apparently did not succeed. Finally, the British and Spaniards came into an agreement whereby the British could stay in Belize in return for putting restraints on the activities of the pirates against Spain.
Around 1840, Britain set up the colony of British Honduras in present-day Belize. Development of Belize began to accelerate, with more mixed marriages between European settlers and emancipated slaves (because by 1834 Britain had abolished slavery throughout the British Empire). The mixed marriages have produced the so-called Creole population which has formed a large part of the population today. There were pockets of ethnic groups; they include some Mayans who lived in Southern Belize n the hills of the Maya Mountains, some Confederate Civil War veterans from the U.S. who settled in what is now Punta Gorda, and some Mexicans who farmed lands further north.
By the 1900's, Belize a population of about 40,000, but because of hurricanes and other natural disasters which caused much destruction, the inhabitants suffered. The discontent led to the movement for more political say by the local population rather than being governed by Britain. Finally, in 1973, the colony's name was changed from British Honduras to Belize, which became independent in 1981.