Belize received full political independence in 1981 and the long-term political regime of George Price which had nurtured independence was voted out of office in 1983-84. Thus this “profile” of the new nation is timely. It is a 140-page documented essay which analyzes both the history (38 pages) and contemporary society (102 pages) of Belize. The slighting of history in this arrangement is more apparent than real, because the contemporary analysis is thoroughly informed by historical data and perspectives. The author, a sociologist, intended to provide a brief, authoritative introduction to Belize and has succeeded in producing the most useful available survey of that Caribe-Centro-American nation. It is as clear as it is brief. If one has to prepare a lecture on Belize on short notice, this would be the source to go to. Beyond that, the deft synthesis provided in the contemporary portion amounts to a significant scholarly contribution to Belizean and Caribbean studies.
Correctly, Bolland says “Belize is so small and its economy is so open, [that] it is largely dependent on the international situation.” That might be said of many countries, but the author later makes clear that Belize is unique in that its very political independence derived from international sanctions involving specific guarantees from the United States, Great Britain, Mexico, and the United Nations. Settlement of the Guatemalan claim to Belize, thought for many years to be a prerequisite to full independence, was never completed. New strategic realities simply bypassed it in a manner reminiscent of the philosopher’s comment that Hegel was never disproven, merely abandoned.
From the historian’s viewpoint, there is one unfortunate bibliographical oversight. The career of Antonio Soberanis, a 1930s labor organizer, is important to the author’s historical analysis of the contemporary scene. Yet Peter Ashdown’s work on Soberanis is not cited. Although Ashdown’s dissertation, “Race, Class and the Unofficial Majority in British Honduras, 1890-1949 (University of Sussex, 1979), which broke new ground, may not have been published, he has published relevant articles. In a work aimed at the general reader, it would have been more useful for the author to cite one of Ashdown’s five publications on Soberanis in Belizean Studies (1977-78) rather than three or four documents in the Belize archives. Such a consideration does not change the fact that this is the best historical overview of Belize yet published.