Lecture on Belize and the history of its economics

The history of Belize, from settlement to nationhood, has been written by renowned authors from just about every perspective conceivable. Throughout the years scholars have studied and published accounts of the Jewel’s colonial, political and cultural past with little to no emphasis placed on the economics that drive its people. Barbara Bulmer-Thomas and her husband Victor have since taken on the challenge of carefully researching and documenting the financial affairs of British Honduras, now Belize, since it was first settled by the Baymen in the seventeenth century. Their work spans a period of forty-five years and they are setting out to dispute a myth that has been around for long; and that is that Peter Wallace, who it is claimed the country was named after, was only a figment of Belizean history. Prior to launching their much anticipated book the husband and wife team is currently in town promoting a two-day lecture series which begins on Tuesday at the House of Culture in Belize City.

Barbara Bulmer-Thomas, Author

“I’ll be speaking tomorrow evening at the House of Culture and I’ll be talking about Peter Wallace who forms a section of our book. Now many Belizeans are really not particularly interested in Peter Wallace. They either take him as, you know, something that’s there and some Belizeans are even embarrassed about it but I believe that we have new information we can show [and] demonstrate why Peter Wallace was a myth. We can date it and we can show how the story grew as a ‘yeriso’ story.”

Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Author

“It’s been a long time in the making because my wife and I have been talking and thinking about Belizean issues for forty-five years and finally we’ve been able to crystallize some of these ideas into a book which we think is long overdue and we’ve used primary sources in many different sources both in Belize but also in London, Spain, in North America, in Guatemala, in Mexico and Jamaica. So there’s a lot of countries that go to make up the economic history of Belize and we think that we’ve been able to track virtually all of them down.”

Barbara Bulmer-Thomas

“The first chapter sets the historical context and then we trace the economic growth of the country from the earliest times, logwood trade and how that turned into the mahogany [trade] and all the subsidiary things Belizeans were doing from the earliest times but it brings it right up to today and it‘s all versed in academic sources. So the point about the Peter Wallace theme is that we can demonstrate from historical sources that there was no such person.”

Victor Bulmer-Thomas

“We tell a story which has many positive but also many negative elements and we think that it’s important for understanding current Belize [in order] to have a proper grasp of the past and in the conclusions we emphasize both the positives and the negatives and clearly one hopes that the new generation of Belizeans will manage to avoid the negatives going forward.”

The lecture series are a joint effort with the University of the West Indies. The book An Economic History of Belize will be published by Cubola Productions and will be released in April.

Channel 5