UCL Institute of the Americas


Dr David Gomez

Canals and Borders: The Dynamics of British Expansion in Central America and the Anglo-Guatemalan Territorial Dispute over Belize, 1821-1863


PhD completed in 2021 | > UCL Discovery - open access


Dr Kate Quinn and Dr Néstor Castañeda.

David Gomez
My research examined the extent to which economic factors influenced British policy towards the territorial claim to Belize (then known as British Honduras) in the nineteenth century. The aim is to provide a better explanation for the variations in British foreign policy towards the dispute circa 1821 to 1863 by clarifying how British interest in isthmian canal projects in Central America and Britain’s shift to free trade combined with the process of hegemonic transition that marked Anglo-American relations beginning in the middle of the century shaped Britain's handling of the dispute.

Britain's continued possession of Belize has long been viewed as reflecting a hankering for colonial expansion of territory, yet its repeated refusal to declare the settlement a colony, and its failure to resolve the dispute in 1863 when Guatemala agreed to terms for this, has never been adequately explained. The territorial dispute over Belize, now almost two hundred years old remains one of the longest unsettled territorial disputes in Latin America, and is a constant source of tension between Belize and Guatemala.