Spanish adventurers begin to explore what is now Argentina at the start of the 16th Century, establishing a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580.

In 1806 and again in 1807 the British attempt to take Buenos Aires but are defeated by a citizen militia. Emboldened by their victories over the British, and by a weakening of the Spanish monarchy during the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the citizens of Buenos Aires establish their own provisional government in May 1810.

On 9 July 1816, Buenos Aires formally declares independence from Spain. A protracted struggle to determine the administrative structure of the country then develops between Unitarians based in Buenos Aires and Federalists from the provinces.

In 1829 Argentina comes under the rule of the dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas, a despot who remains in power until 1852, when he is toppled in an uprising led by General Justo Urquiza.

On 25 May 1853, Argentina is constituted as a Confederation headed by a president. Legislative powers are vested in the national parliament, which consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Urquiza is appointed as the country's first president.

However, Buenos Aires refuses to recognise the authority of the Confederation. Civil war breaks out in 1859, and again in 1861, with the forces representing Buenos Aires eventually winning out.

In 1862 General Bartolomé Mitre is elected president of the newly created Republic of Argentina. The republic is governed under an amended version of the 1853 constitution. Buenos Aires is made the nation's capital.

In the last quarter of the 19th Century, Argentina experiences an era of growth and prosperity based on the expansion and development of its vast agricultural potential. The country becomes a major exporter of wool, wheat and beef.

Growth is further driven by the influx of immigrants and capital from Europe. From 1850 to 1940 more than six million Europeans immigrate to the country. The majority come from Spain and Italy. Significant numbers also arrive from France, Britain, Germany, Russia, Poland and Syria.

At the start of the 20th Century, Argentina is the richest nation in Latin America and one of world's 10 wealthiest countries.

Conservative forces dominate the parliament until 1916, when the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), popularly known as the Radical Party, wins a majority.

After a 14-year rule, the increasingly dysfunctional UCR is removed from power on 6 September 1930 in the country's first military coup d'état against a constitutional government. At the same time, the Great Depression severely impacts Argentina's export revenue, resulting in increased unemployment, an exodus of workers from rural areas to the cities and the growth of a right-wing nationalist movement.

As Argentina's social and political landscape becomes more complex and unstable, the military become more enmeshed in government. In 1943 a nationalist military junta ousts the government in another coup. Among the coup's leaders is Colonel Juan Domingo Perón.

In 1946, Perón is elected president of Argentina as the candidate of the Argentine Labour Party, later to become the Peronist Party. Perón's economic policies favour the working classes. Banks and private companies are nationalised. Industrial expansion is encouraged. Perón's charismatic wife, Eva Duarte de Perón, known as Evita, helps to boost his growing popularity.

However, when the economy begins to stall, Perón starts to lose some of his appeal. A number of repressive measures are subsequently introduced to enable Perón to maintain control. The media is censored. Restrictions are placed on freedom of speech. Dissidents are jailed.

Riots against Perón break out in Argentina's cities during 1952. Despite the protests, Perón is reelected president and his party wins a large majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

Perón's second term as president is cut short when the military stage a rebellion on 16 September 1955. Perón goes into exile. His supporters, the Peronistas, are politically marginalised by the military for the next 20 years.

The following decades are ones of confusion. Short-lived military and civilian administrations follow in quick succession. Social problems mount as the country's economy slows. Out on the streets, the level of violence grows, with leftists, Peronistas, and rightists all engaging in terrorism.