A chronology of key events:
16-17th centuries - The Spanish arrive, but fail to convert the indigenous Maya to Christianity.
1600s - The area of present-day Belize becomes part of Spain's possessions in Central America and the Caribbean; British buccaneers and woodcutters begin to settle around the Belize river.
1763 and 1783 - Spain signs treaties granting British subjects the privilege of wood-cutting, but retains sovereignty.
1798 - Spain tries to remove British settlers from the area by force but fails.
1847-53 - Several thousand Spanish-speaking refugees settle in northern Belize and Maya communities relocate to the north and west following the Caste War in Yucatan.
1859 - Britain and Guatemala sign treaty defining border with Belize.
1862 - Belize formally declared a British crown colony and named British Honduras.
1893 - Mexico renounces claim to Belizean territory.
1930s - Belizean economy hit by Great Depression; Belize City largely destroyed by hurricane.
1954 - Constitutional reforms give Belize limited autonomy; general elections won by People's United Party (PUP), led by George Price.
1961 - Hurricane Hattie kills more than 260 people.
1964 - New constitution gives Belize full autonomy and introduces universal adult suffrage and a two-chamber parliament.
1970 - Belmopan replaces Belize City as capital.
1973 - The country changes its name from British Honduras to Belize.
George Price, prime minister at independence
Born in 1919
1956-96: Leader of People's United Party
1981 - Belize becomes independent with George Price as prime minister, but Guatemala refuses to recognise it. About 1,500 British troops remain to defend the country against Guatemalan territorial claims.
1984 - Manuel Esquival of the centre-right United Democratic Party (UDP) becomes prime minister after defeating Price's PUP in the general elections.
1992 - Guatemala recognises Belize as a sovereign and independent state.
1993 - Manuel Esquival becomes prime minister after his UDP defeats PUP in general elections; Britain says it will withdraw troops by 1994 after Guatemala recognises Belize; Esquival suspends agreement reached with Guatemala while Price was premier, claiming it made too many concessions in return for recognition.
1998 - Said Musa becomes prime minister after the PUP wins a landslide election victory.
2000 October - Hurricane Keith causes widespread devastation.
2001 October - Towns flattened, thousands left homeless after Hurricane Iris hits.
2002 September - Belize, Guatemala agree on a draft settlement to their long-standing border dispute at talks brokered by the Organisation of American States (OAS). The deal, which proposed referendums in both countries, is rejected by Guatemala in 2003.
2003 March - Said Musa is elected for a second term as prime minister.
Reefs fringing the Belizean coast attract divers, snorkellers
2004 January - Britain's Privy Council dismisses an appeal to overturn the Belize government's approval of the proposed Chalillo dam. Campaigners say the dam threatens rare species and communities downstream.
2005 April - Rioting breaks out in the capital during a wave of anti-government protests.
2006 April - Belize begins commercial exploitation of its oil reserves.
2007 November - Organisation of American States (OAS) recommends that border dispute with Guatemala be referred to International Court of Justice (ICJ).
2008 February - Dean Barrow becomes prime minister after the United Democratic Party (UDP) wins a landslide election victory.
2010 May - Government says it will stop sending appeals cases to British Privy Council starting 1 June.
2011 September - Belize is added to US blacklist of countries considered to be major producers or transit routes for illegal drugs.
2012 March - Elections. Ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) wins another term.