History of Chile

Discover the fascinating history of Chile

Chile is generally considered to have first been settled in by migrating Native Americans. These native peoples made good use of the fertile valleys and the rich coast of the country. While the Inca's did manage to extend their rule to the northern parts of Chile, fierce opposition prevented them from expanding it any further. The first European to visit the area was the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan was attempting to circumnavigate the globe and the Straights of Magellan were named after him.

Some time later, Diego de Almagro and his Spanish soldiered came in search of gold but found none and were turned away by the local population. Almagro found a huge number of Indian groups who supported themselves through agriculture and hunting. The Spanish may not have found gold here, but they did see the lands potential. In 1541, Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago. However, European rule was not welcomed and there was repeated Mapuche insurrection until Chile was declared an autonomous republic under the Spanish monarchy in 1810. It wasn't long before the people of Chile sought complete independence which led to a long struggle between the two countries. The intermittent warfare eventually ended in 1817 when armies from the Andes entered Chile and defeated the royalists.

On 12 February 1818, Chile was declared and independent republic. However, by this time Chileans had been greatly influenced by the colonial social structure and little changed. Families were influenced by the Roman Catholic Church and wealthy landowners had the most control in the country. Near the end of the 19th century, the Chilean government suppressed the remaining Mapuche Indians and gained sovereignty over the Straight of Magellan. They also expanded their territory to the north where they were able to exploit nitrate deposits. In 1891, the Chilean Civil War saw the redistribution of parliamentary power and a greater degree of democracy being employed. However the country was never entirely happy with the ruling system and it changed dramatically over the next few centuries. There was a lot of inter-country strife and war to this extent which left the country somewhat scarred. Many of those who were elected to be leaders of the country had the countries best interest at heart but were unable to reach there goals. Others sought only to profit themselves from the situation and left their fellow countrymen in dire straights. The country suffered economic depression and unemployment rose. Measures were taken to counter this trend to some effect. The government and economy have since stabilized somewhat and is currently run as a democratic republic.


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