For thousands of years, several high cultures
had replaced each other in the area that today
constitutes Peru when the Incarri began to emerge during
the 12th century. It spread over the following centuries
and came to cover one third of South America. The
Spanish conquest of the area in the early 16th century
marked the end of the Inca culture. Millions of people
died and villages were destroyed. The capital Lima was
founded in 1535 by the colonizers and became a center of
the Spanish empire. Peru proclaimed its independence in
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Peru, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The oldest traces of human settlements in Peru are at
least 12,000 years old. New archaeological excavations
in the valley of the Super River north of Lima have
shown that the first prominent culture developed from
3100 to 1800 BC around a city called Caral. The
community was based on agriculture with irrigation, and
large pyramids and residential areas were erected.
Culture is the earliest known example of urban
development in America.
Caral culture was replaced by agricultural and
fishing culture in the kingdom of Chavín on the coast
and in the highlands of northern Peru, which flourished
from 950 to 450 BC. Of the cultures that then developed,
mochica, huari, paracas and nazca were the most
prominent. The oldest found mummy in Latin America is
about 1,300 years old. The mummy is believed to have
been a high official of the warrior huari. During the
mochica civilization (the heyday of the 8th century AD),
terraces and irrigation facilities were built which are
still partially in use. The Tiahuanaco civilization on
Lake Titicaca is best known for the so-called Sun Gate
(in present-day Bolivia) and is estimated to have
reached its peak during the 5th century AD, but the
social system began to disintegrate after the year 1000.
A century later, the Chimú Empire's flowering period
began northern Peru and southern Ecuador. This culture,
Inca culture grew in the 12th century in the area
around the city of Cuzco in the southern part of
present-day Peru. During the 13th century, the area of
the Inca people gradually began to grow at the expense
of the neighboring people. In the mid-1400s, Inca began
the conquest trains, which led to almost one-third of
South America (current Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, southern
Colombia and northern Chile) under its dominance.
Rapid Spanish colonization
In 1532, the Spaniards, led by Francisco Pizarro,
arrived in Peru. During this time, an internal power
struggle was going on in the empire, which was used by
the Spaniards to conquer the whole country over the
course of a few years. In 1535 Lima was founded, which
became the capital of the Spanish Viceroy of Peru.
In Peru, large silver assets were discovered and the
huge amount of precious metal that the Spaniards shipped
home from Peru across the Atlantic contributed to
Europe's industrialization. However, for the original
population, the Spanish colonial empire was a disaster.
The Incarik's livelihood system collapsed, which in
combination with war, new illnesses and forced labor,
led the population to decline from perhaps 12 million to
2 million in 50 years.
The colonizers forced the villages away from the best
agricultural lands and formed large estates, where the
local inhabitants were forced to work. On the coast,
plantations were built where sugar and cotton were grown
for export. At the plantations worked black slaves that
the Spaniards brought from Africa. A series of uprisings
against the Spanish empire culminated in what was led by
the Túpac Amaru II, the 1780s. However, the uprising was
always fought down.
Lima had a favored position as the center of the
Spanish empire, and so the dissatisfaction of the
Spanish kittens with the sovereignty of the mother
country came to develop later in Peru than in other
Spanish colonies on the American continent.
The core of the forces that eventually fought for
independence was not peruvians, but also independence
fighters from other Spanish colonies. Most Spanish
kittens in Peru fought on Spain's side in the protracted
and bloody war of independence. In 1821, the Argentine
General José de San Martín entered the city of Lima and
proclaimed an independent Peru.
Free time for free Peru
However, no decisive victory against Spain came about
until the battle of Ayacucho in 1824, which meant the
end of Spain's colonial rule in South America.
The first period of independence was marked by
constant civil disputes between various local military
leaders, caudillos. One regime and constitution
replaced the other. Only in the 1850s was some stability
achieved under President Ramón Castilla. He abolished
slavery in 1854.
Peru, from the 1840s, received large income from
guano, a phosphorus- and nitrogen-rich bird droppings
from the islands off the coast of Peru, which were sold
as fertilizers to Europe and North America. Guanon ended
after about 40 years, but before that Peru was able to
build up its economy thanks to the large export revenue,
and railway lines from the mines to the coast could be
On two occasions during the second half of the 19th
century, land conflicts led to wars between Peru and
neighboring countries. A war against Ecuador (1859-1860)
was won by Peru but did not lead to any final agreement
on the border crossing. Struggles over a mineral-rich
desert area in the south led to the so-called Pacific
War (1879-1883) between Peru and Bolivia on one side and
Chile on the other. Peru and Bolivia suffered major
defeats and Peru had to resign some provinces to Chile.
However, after American mediation, Peru regained a
province in 1929.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Europeans and
Americans began investing in Peru. Sugar and cotton
production grew, and exports of oil, copper and silver
led to steady economic growth. The economic elite ruled
the country through the Civilist Party, and under a
number of governments until the First World War, Peru
experienced political stability and economically good
times. Industries began to be built up, and with this
came increased immigration to the cities, among other
Military rule and dictatorship
During World War I, exports fell, and after social
unrest and political strife, the military seized power.
A radical labor movement had emerged, and an unpopular
university reform contributed to the emergence of
radical student movements. After a return to civilian
rule, the country was given a constitution in 1920 that
laid the foundation for social and economic reforms.
President was then Augusto Leguía, but his regime, which
was popular in the early years, became increasingly
dictatorial, and he was overthrown by the military in
1930. The country had then been subjected to economic
mismanagement with increasing debts abroad and
widespread corruption within a growing bureaucracy.
The difficult times led to the strengthening of
political forces on the left. A radical student leader,
Victor Haya de la Torre, built a revolutionary
organization, the American Revolutionary Popular
Alliance (APRA), which managed to capture the discontent
that existed in broad groups of people. Among other
things, Apra wanted to nationalize the business
community and fight US influence in the country.
Haya de la Torre barely lost in the 1931 presidential
election, and Apra staged an armed uprising, which was
defeated. The party was banned and not allowed to take
part in any elections until 1945. Throughout the 1930s,
the army continued to persecute and kill members of
Apra, who responded with bomb attacks against the
The conflict with Ecuador over large tracts of land
north of the Amazon River and the Marañón River led to a
short-lived war in 1941. Peru's army triumphed and the
country was allocated to negotiations almost all of the
disputed territory. However, the conflict has continued
into our days (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Democratic tendencies were strengthened during World
War II and Haya de la Torre softened Apra's
revolutionary profile. The party got a seat in the
government after the 1945 elections. Three years later,
Apra members participated in a mutiny in the Navy, after
which the party was again banned when the military
seized power in 1948 on behalf of the ruling elite.
The ex-spy boss is sentenced
Former spy boss Vladimiro Montesinos receives nine years in prison for
corruption. In 2003 there will be further convictions for five and eight years
in prison, respectively, for abuse of power and embezzlement, and in 2004 a
sentence of 15 years in prison for corruption and conspiracy.
Fujimori is charged with treason
In Parliament, former President Alberto Fujimori accuses him of treason.
Fujimori is in voluntary exile in Japan.
The war on guerrillas is being investigated
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed to investigate events during the
war against the guerrillas in the 1980s and 1990s begins its work.
The ex-spy chief is arrested abroad
Former spy boss Vladimir Montesinos is arrested in Venezuela and flown back
Alejandro Toledo wins in the presidential election
Economist Alejandro Toledo from the Middle Alliance A possible Peru beats
ex-president Alan García in the second round of the presidential election.
Toledo wins with 53 percent of the vote against García's 47 percent. Toledo
becomes the country's first president belonging to the indigenous peoples.
High judges are replaced
The Chairman of the Supreme Court and nine other high ranking judges are
dismissed. They are accused of conspiring with Fujimori's controversial spy
chief Vladimiro Montesinos, who played a key role in the bribery scandal that
swept the president.
Military commanders are replaced
The commanders of the army, the navy and the air force are replaced.
Ex-President Fujimori is to be prosecuted
A court is opening a lawsuit against former President Alberto Fujimori for
negligence in the post.