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In 1535, Diego de Almagro carried out a tortuous first Spanish expedition to Chile. But it was Pedro de Valdivia in 1540 who initiated the true conquest of these lands by founding cities such as Santiago (1541), La Serena(1544), Concepcion (1550) and Valdivia (1552). The arrival of the Spanish marks the birth of a new type of culture and society which was to determine the development and the identity of this country over the coming centuries. As the Spanish conquest advanced amid difficulties and accidents, in 1541 the war of Arauco broke out, this was to last well into the 19th century. Given this background and isolated from the great political centres throughout its colonial period, Chile underwent a series of hard times enhanced by natural disasters, piracy and Indian rebellions, among other factors.

The arrival of the Bourbon dynasty to the Spanish throne during the 18th century marked the commencement of a new period of reforms and development in colonial Chile.

On 18 September 1810, as a reaction to the capture of the Spanish king Fernando VII by Napoleon, Chilean creoles held their First Government Committee, which represents the starting point of the independence process. Following a period of almost 20 years' fighting with Spain, the metropolis gained a momentary Reconquest (1814 to 1817), Chile proclaimed its independence on 12th February 1818, which was consolidated on the 5th April the same year at the Battle of Maipo. One of the national heroes, Bernardo O'Higgins, became head of government and introduced significant social reforms.

In 1833, a constitution was passed which was to last until 1891 and which established a strong protagonist role for the Executive. This period was marked by the figure of Diego Portales, who was to establish the basis of organization and functioning for the Republican state of Chile. Between 1836 and 1839, the first war against Peru and Bolivia took place and in 1865, Chile once again went to war with Spain. The second half of the 9th century was a period of development and economic bonanza, boosted mainly by the discovery and exploitation of mining deposits in the north of the country and by certain internal stability.

Between 1879 and 1883, the Pacific War between Chile and the Peru / Bolivia Alliance took place. During the war, Chile was able to extend its territory towards the north and to seize important natural resources.

In 1891, a disastrous civil war between followers of a strong Executive and defenders of a regime which called for more protagonist for the Legislative power culminated in the suicide of President Jose Manuel Balmaceda and the establishment of the so-called Parliamentary Period, which was to last until 1925. These years were marked by an unstable, oligarchy in which Congress predominated over the President.

1925 marks a turning point in the political and social history of Chile. That was the year in which a new Constitution was passed that initiated a period of democratic presidency that was to last almost 50 years. Furthermore, in that same year, the Church was separated from the State and new social spokesmen of the period were invited to join the political arena. Apart from the crisis following the 1929 crack, in which Chile was one of the countries that most suffered worldwide, this was a period of remarkable economic stability.

Between 1925 and 1973, power alternated between right-wing, radical, populist, Christian Democrat and the socialist groups. In 1970, Salvador Allende was elected president as representative of a left-wing coalition that set up significant social and economic reforms. However, the Society of Chile in those years was progressively suffering from a polarization that could not find a satisfactory exit through the institutional paths of negotiation, thus leading to the coup d 'état by the armed forces of the 11th September.

A military junta led by the army general, Augusto Pinochet, took power and governed the country for seventeen years. This period was marked by significant economic reforms that set up the basis for the Chilean economic model based on neoliberalism. It was also a period in which human rights were violated, thus leading to progressive international isolation and severe internal unrest. In 1980, a new Political Constitution was voted in by referendum.

The 1990s represent a return to democracy, with a central left coalition governing the country under Patricio Aylwin (1990-1994), Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (1994-2000), Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010). These governments have striven to recover the economic model established by the military government with sustained growth but also aimed at achieving greater social equity and development. At the same time, efforts have been made to expand international networks and agreements, both on the political and economic fronts, in 2010, under the presidency of Sebastian Piñera, the country celebrated the bicentenary of the first Government Junta.

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