Belize History

The Book- The Economic History Of Belize

This 214 pages paperback book, written by  Barbara and Victor Bulmer-Thomas, is the first economic history of Belize covering the period from the 17th century to post-independence. It is a new title in the Belize Collection.

The book starts with the myth about Peter Wallace, widely believed to have been the first British settler, which is shown to be false.

It explores the economic system established by the first settlers in the late 17th century that was almost exclusively centred on the export of logwood.

This logwood economy operated outside the British imperial system until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, when Belize became a British settlement.

In the next century the economy became more diversified through both the export of mahogany as well as the entrepot trade with Central America.

When Belize became a British colony in 1862, it coincided with the decline of the entrepot trade and a crisis in the world mahogany industry. This led to an attempt by the British authorities to introduce agricultural exports.

The Belize Botanic Station was founded in 1892 to promote economic diversification and agricultural exports, which tried various ways to end the colony’s total dependence on forestry. However, these efforts were insufficient and the economy went into serious decline before devaluation at the end of 1949.

By the time of independence in 1981, the economy had become much more diversified, but Belize’s position still compared unfavourably with the rest of the Caribbean. The performance of the economy since independence has been very volatile with periods of boom followed by slumps leading to high unemployment and a deterioration in income distribution. The reasons for this are examined in detail, while the authors conclude with a series of policy recommendations designed to improve Belize’s long run economic performance.
About the authors
Victor Bulmer-Thomas is British and studied at Oxford University, where he received a BA, MA and Ph.D.    He is Emeritus Professor of Economics at London University and Honorary Research Fellow in the Institute for the Study of the Americas.    From 2001-6 he was Director of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs), where he is currently an Associate Fellow in the Americas Programme, and from 1992-8 he was Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at London University.    From 1986-1997 he was editor of the Journal of Latin.

His publications include The Economic History of the Caribbean from the Napoleonic Wars (2012); The Economic History of Latin America since Independence (2003); and The Political Economy of Central America since 1920 (1987).    He was a V.S.O. teacher at St. Michael’s College, Belize City, in 1966-67 and has been a frequent visitor to the country subsequently. He has been married to Barbara since 1970.

Barbara Bulmer-Thomas was born at the Melinda Agricultural Station in the Stann Creek District.   She spent her early years growing up in various parts of Belize (then British Honduras) where she was always in close touch with the magnificent Belize forests that proved an early and enduring interest.    She attended the Belize Technical College in the late 1950s and then travelled to the UK to pursue her education.    After a first degree from the Open University she studied Microbiology at London University and later obtained an MSc in Plant Taxonomy from the University of Reading.    She has worked as an Independent Scientific Researcher since the 1980s with a publication on Plant Taxonomy and a book on Mexico for children.    She has also lectured internationally on Belize. She is a keen supporter of the Britain-Belize Association in the UK an organisation that brings academics who work on Belize together once a year to present their work and exchange ideas. She is currently working on a Guide to the Plants of Northern Ambergris Caye.

Source: The Star Newspaper

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