Chile is invaded and colonised by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th Century, with the capital city of Santiago being founded in 1541.

The country claims nominal independence on 18 September 1810 but is reconquered by Spanish troops in 1814. A war for independence ensues. The Spanish are finally forced out in 1818.

A period of instability follows until the 1830s, when the cornerstones are set for a tradition of democratic civilian rule that is only rarely broken by military intervention, and only then for short periods.

Chile is the first country in Latin America to adopt a multiparty political system, becoming one of the most stable, reformist and representative democracies in the world. The constitution of 1925 officially recognises the separation between church and state, recognises workers' rights and the need for social welfare, and establishes a system of proportional representation.

Chile's economy suffers a downturn following the Second World War. Inflation rises, averaging 38% in the 1950s, while growth slows. Successive governments are unable to completely solve the economic and social problems besetting the country.

Chile is further destabilised in September 1970 when Salvador Allende Gossens, a Marxist standing for the Popular Unity leftist coalition and promising to extend social reforms and introduce a socialist system, is elected president with 37% of the vote following a split result.

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