The history of Chile is generally divided in twelve periods, the first of which begins with the initial inhabitants of the territory that today forms this vast country.
The pre-hispanic rts corresponds to the history of different American-Indian groups present in the territory from around the year 14 800 BC until the arrival of the Spanish colonists. European exploration of the continent began in 1492. Fernando Magallanes and his expedition were the first Europeans to arrive in Chile, traversing the narrow southern strait that today bears his name in 1520. In 1536, Diego de Almagro headed an expedition to the Valle de Aconcagua and explored the area which is now the north of the country.
The period of independence began with the overthrow of the Spanish governor in 1810 and finished with the exile of the liberating republican leader Bernardo O’Higgins in 1823. These years were marked both by governing problems of the newly independent leaders and their numerous battles against those loyal to the Spanish crown who briefly regained control of the territory before ultimately being defeated. Once independence was definitevly achieved, a period of organization of the Chilean state followed between 1823 and 1830. This era witnessed three different governments and two constitutions.
The period between 1831 and 1861 is known as the conservative Republican era. This epoch was marked by the enactment of the 1833 Constitution, established by Diego Portales and his strong, centralist government. Despite several attempts at subversion, institutional stability was maintained and the country developed a prosperous economy.
The liberal Republic period followed, spanning three decades from 1861 until 1981 and characterized by greater political stability and an extension of territory to both the north and south.
The civil war of 1891 led to the formation of a parliamentary republic which would continue until the creation of the 1925 Constitution. During this time Congress dominated politics and the president became a largely symbolic figure, essentially devoid of power. The country urbanized rapidly in these years and the first workers’ unions were created.
The subsequent presidential republic began with the 1825 constitution and continued until the 1973 military coup. During this period, three parties dominated politics: The radicals, the christian democrats and the socialists. Numerous public companies were created in this period, an era ultimately witnessed the triumph of left wing ideas and the success of the socialist party in elections.
Following the coup of September 11, 1973 which overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende, a dictatorial military regime led by Gen Augusto Pinochet ruled the country. Tens of thousands of political opponents were arrested, tortured or killed, including several assassinations outside of the country, while many more were expelled or condemned to exile. With the help of the Chicago Boys, Pinochet ushered in a policy of liberal economic doctrine and a new constitution was adopted in 1980.
Finally, the transition to democracy began in 1990 with the inauguration of President Patricio Aylwin. In 2006, Michelle Bachelet became the first woman to occupy the highest office of the country. Then, in 2010, Sebastián Piñera became the first democratically elected right-leaning president since 1958.