The period between Spanish excursions skirting Belize and the entrance of the British into the country marks a poorly documented phase when the first European powers started showing interest in Belize. The background of this period is that the French were the first Europeans to openly defy the papal bull issued by Pope Alexander V. Soon after, Dutch and British privateers were beginning to challenge Spanish sovereignty over territory in the Western Hemisphere. For this reason, it has been suggested that the first European settlers were Puritans who colonized Belize at Sittee and Placencia.
Despite these claims of an early Puritan settlement, it is known that the Spanish never really settled in Belize. Therefore, the next major culture to reside in Belize were the British, Welsh and Scottish people who are recognized to be the first Europeans to settle the land. The first settlement was at the mouth of the Belize River but the first capital of the settlement was on St. Georges Caye. The legacy of the British still lives on with a number of families who maintain successful businesses and homes on exclusive areas such as St. Georges Caye.
The first permanent European settlement in Belize is believed to be the brainchild of a certain Captain Peter Wallace a Scottish sailor who had make a hasty retreat from Tortuga on account of the French. Wallace sailed westward and reached Turneffe in 1638. Wallace then surveyed the coast for hiding coves and found a river protected by shoals and cayes. Along with a crew of British sailors, Wallace immediately began to build houses and a fort at the mouth of this river. The settlement became Belize and operated independently from the mid 1600s until 1862 when it became a colony of Great Britain.
While Belize was governed as a colony, the British made enormous profits from taking resources from Belize. Very little was returned to the country to develop its people. For example Belize never even had a proper hospital for the citizens. Instead, the British insisted that they were helping Belize by “civilizing” its cultures. This was in light of the fact that the Mayas had a highly civilized and prosperous society a thousand years before the British. Likewise, life in Africa, China and India was of a higher standard than the slavery and indentured labour that the British forced or tricked the other cultures in Belize to endure.