In 1524 the Spanish arrived in Honduras, led by Hernan Cortes. Within two decades, they had conquered most of the indigenous peoples and made the territory part of Spain's vast empire in the New World. The Spanish ruled the region for the next three centuries, mining gold and silver using forced local labour, and, as indigenous populations were decimated, slaves from other parts of Central America, and eventually Africa.
The Spanish conquered the southern part of Honduras fairly quickly, but were less successful in the north. The Miskito Kingdom, in the northeast, was particularly effective in resisting conquest. The Miskitos found support from northern European privateers, pirates, and Britain, which placed much of it under protection after 1740.
British colonization was particularly evident in the Bay Islands, and alliances between the British and Miskito placed the area largely outside Spanish control, and made it a haven for pirates.
‘Spanish’ Honduras became independent from Spain in 1821, and was for a time under the Mexican Empire. From 1838 it was an independent republic.
In 1862, Britain declared the Settlement of Belize, in the Bay of Honduras, a British colony called ‘British’ Honduras. British colonists established vast estates, while the indigenous Maya were forbidden from owning land, and were moved into ‘reserves.’
In 1964, Belize became a self-governing colony. It only became fully independent from Britain in 1981.