Christopher Columbus claims Cuba for Spain on his first voyage in 1492. Havana is established in 1514 and named as the island's capital in 1607.
During the 400 years of Spanish colonial rule the native inhabitants of the island are wiped out and hundreds of thousands of African slaves are shipped in.
At the start of the 19th Century a movement for Cuban independence begins to build, with several unsuccessful US-backed attempts at armed insurrection during the 1850s culminating in a full-blown domestic revolution in 1868. The war lasts until May 1878 when the rebel government accepts a peace settlement with the Spanish authorities.
The struggle for independence continues, flaring again in 1895 when the second war for independence begins. Though the revolutionaries try to win the Cuba's independence without the involvement of the US, the Spanish are only finally ousted by the Spanish-Cuban-American war of 1898.
The US occupies the island until 20 May 1902, when Cuba is declared an independent republic, although the US retains the right to intervene in domestic Cuban affairs and obtains a permanent lease on Guantanamo Bay in the island's south, where it constructs a naval base. American business interests flourish but the domestic political process is seriously compromised by US interference.
The US reoccupies Cuba from 1906 to 1909, and again in 1912 and 1917, to support the government of the day and protect American interests.
1933 sees the entry of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar onto the political scene when the then army sergeant leads a military revolt that overthrows the government. The new revolutionary government introduces social reforms and cancels the provision giving the US the right to intervene in Cuban politics, although the US retains control of Guantanamo Bay.
When the government announces the nationalisation of the American-owned Electric Bond and Share Company in January 1934 Batista seizes power and installs himself as dictator, ruling until 1940 when he is legitimately elected as president but with the proviso that he can only serve one term.
Finding himself out of power in 1944 following the end of his term as president, Batista, now a general, bides his time until March 1952 when he stages another military coup and reasserts dictatorial control.