A low-lying country on the Central American mainland, Belize was the home of the Mayan civilization, which flourished from about 300 BC to 900 AD. In 1502 Columbus sailed into a bay which he named the Bay of Honduras, although he did not actually visit the area later known as British Honduras. European settlement was established in 1638 by shipwrecked British sailors. These were later joined by British soldiers and sailors disbanded after the capture of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. Spain claimed sovereignty over the entire New World except for certain Portuguese possessions and so there were numerous attacks from nearby Spanish settlements during the next century. Victory was won by the settlers in the Battle of St George’s Caye in 1798. In 1862 British Honduras was formally declared a British colony, subordinate to Jamaica.
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