History Files

The Americas

South American Colonial Settlements


AD 1528 - 1824

The peopling of the Americas remains a complicated subject, and one which is open to a great deal of debate. While earlier migrations are especially debated, it is generally accepted that there was a broad phase of migration (involving several individual waves of migration) into the 'New World' of the Americas between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago. These first arrivals made the most of the Bering land bridge that joined Asia to North America during the most recent ice age. Others may have followed the coastline in canoes, moving much more quickly than they would on foot. Over thousands of years these new arrivals filtered eastwards and southwards to produce the native American civilisations that are known to archaeology and history. Elements of modern native American society prefer to propose that they have always been living in the New World and that a migration simply did not take place, despite overwhelming evidence which places human evolution firmly in Africa.

As part of the general exploration of the New World, Spanish conquistadors set out on various expeditions in the early sixteenth century. One such expedition was led by Francisco Pizarro in 1533, heading towards the western coast of South America where it was fortunate in discovering the vast Inca empire just as it was reaching the end of a civil war. With just forty soldiers (aided by friendly native warriors), Pizarro quickly conquered much of the empire, acquired vast new territories, and set up the foundations of Peru. Just a decade later, in 1542, the viceroyalty of Peru was created to rival that of New Spain in terms of the territory and potential wealth it controlled. At its height it ruled all of western, central and southern South America, often through governors such as the captaincy general of Chile.

Initial wealth was brought about through the mining and textile trades, but when Spain controlled Portugal between 1580-1640, there was no restriction on Portuguese settlement in Brazil. In the eighteenth century, the creation of the viceroyalties of New Granada and Rio de la Plata reduced the importance of the Peruvian capital at Lima and removed much territory from Peru's control. It also served to move some of the lucrative Andean trade to Buenos Aires. Added to the decline in productivity from the mining trade and textile production, this combination of events saw Peru lose much of its initial importance to the Spanish empire.

(Additional information by Dr Godofredo Arauzo.)

1524 - 1532

A tentative first expedition by Francisco Pizarro to conquer Peru from his base in Panama City fails when he is forced to turn back. The second expedition in 1526 finds the northern edges of Inca territory. The third, in 1527-1528 sets up a temporary base on the edges of Inca territory, while the fourth requires a return to Spain and an interview with the king. This gains Pizarro the titles of governor and captain general of New Castile, the territory expected to be conquered by his expedition. By 1532 Pizarro is ready to head back into the lands which promise so many riches.

1528 - 1541

Francisco Pizarro

First Spanish governor of New Castile. Assassinated.


Pizarro leads his small body of troops southwards from Panama to conquer the Inca empire, opening up vast new territories in South America. Pizarro is accompanied by his siblings, Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro.


The governor of Guatemala, Pedro de Alvarado, heads to the Andes, hoping to gain the rumoured riches of Peru, but he is warned off by the men of Francisco Pizarro. In the same year, Pizarro's leadership is questioned by Diego de Almagro, and the latter man leaves, given permission by the king of Spain to explore southern Peru (modern Chile).

1535 - 1536

Pizarro explores the west coast of northern Peru, and founds the city of Lima as the capital of the new territories. His brothers govern the Inca capital Qusqo (or Cusco), exhibiting great brutality towards the native subjects. An uprising results, almost recapturing the capital until the Pizarro brothers are able to defeat it.

Incas confront conquistadors
The small number of conquistadors were able to defeat massively larger numbers in ferocious fighting thanks to their modern European weaponry

In the same year a former companion of Pizarro, Diego de Almagro, leads his band of conquistadors south into Chile in search of gold. He claims the territory for Spain but founds no cities, and returns in 1536 having abandoned his discoveries. Two years later he is executed after having failed to oust Pizarro as governor.

1537 - 1538

Almagro's return to Peru sees him temporarily imprison Gonzalo and Hernando Pizarro. Once reunited, the Pizarro brothers defeat Almagro's attempts to usurp control at the Battle of Las Salinas in April 1538. Almagro is executed on 8 July. One of Pizarro's captains, Hernando de Soto, becomes governor of Cuba in 1538.

1541 - 1544

Cristobal Vaca de Castro

Governor of New Castile.

1541 - 1546

Pizarro is assassinated by Almagro's followers on 26 June 1541. Gonzalo Pizarro returns from an expedition into the interior to find that the official representative of the Spanish crown has arrived to take control of Peru, and the assassins and their forces are defeated at the Battle of Chupas on 16 September 1542.

In 1544, the king of Spain appoints Blasco Nunez Vela as the first viceroy of Peru (which includes the captaincy general of Chile and the New Kingdom of Granada, and which forces a reorganisation of the governate of New Andalusia). He introduces new laws aimed at preventing the previous exploitation of the natives and Gonzalo Pizarro rebels, with the backing of the many conquistadors who lose out under the new laws. The situation is not fully resolved until Pizarro is defeated at the Battle of Jaquijahuana in 1548 and is immediately beheaded.

1544 - 1546

Blasco Nunez Vela

First viceroy of Peru.

1544 - 1548

Gonzalo Pizarro

Half-brother of Francisco. Claimant viceroy of Peru.

1545 - 1559

The viceroys continually attempt to persuade the Inca ruler to come down from his independent mountain capital and reside in his former capital at Qosqo, where he can be controlled by Spain. It takes until 1559 before Sayri Tupac does so, and he accepts Christianity at the same time.

1546 - 1549

Pedro de la Gasca

President of the Audiencia.

1550 - 1552

Antonio de Mendoza

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Spain 1535-1550).

1552 - 1556

Melchor Bravo de Saravia

President of the Audiencia.

1556 - 1561

Andres Hurtado de Mendoza


Diego de Acevedo

Died before he could take office.

1561 - 1564

Diego Lopez de Zuniga y Velasco


Juan de Saavedra

President of the Audiencia.

1564 - 1569

Lope Garcia de Castro

President of the Audiencia.

1569 - 1581

Francisco de Toledo

1570 - 1572

Toledo makes an extensive tour of the viceroyalty and reorganises it. He establishes the Inquisition in Peru (1570) and promulgates laws that treats natives and Spanish equally. In 1572, the last Inca ruler, Tupac Amaru, is arrested, tried, and beheaded. His city is burned and its location forgotten.

1571 - 1574

The Inquisition arrives in New Spain, while also simultaneously setting up in Peru. By 1574 it is ready to begin hearing cases, with around two hundred people being processed in that year in New Spain alone. Most of them are burned alive in various plazas around Mexico City or in secret chambers.


Spain gains control of its Iberian neighbour, the kingdom of Portugal, and any attempts to prevent the Portuguese colonisation of eastern South America in Brazil are relaxed.

1581 - 1583

Martín Enríquez de Almanza

Viceroy of New Spain (1568-1580). Spanish viceroy of Peru. Died.


Cristobal Ramirez de Cartagena

President of the Audiencia.

1584 - 1589

Fernando Torres de Portugal y Mesia

1589 - 1596

Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza

1596 - 1604

Luis de Velasco

Viceroy. Also Spanish viceroy of New Spain (1590-95 & 1607-11).

1604 - 1606

Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo

Spanish viceroy of Peru. Died. (Viceroy of New Spain 1595-1603.)


Diego Nunez de Avendano

President of the Audiencia.

1607 - 1615

Juan de Mendoza y Luna

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Spain 1603-1607).

1615 - 1621

Francisco de Borja y Aragon


Francisco de Borja y Aragon divides the government of the districts of Rio de la Plata in two, creating Buenos Aires and Paraguay, both of which remain dependencies of Peru. The idea to divide the existing governate had been devised by Hernando Arias de Saavedra, governor of Rio de la Plata, but it requires royal confirmation (which it receives in 1618) before it can be officially enacted in 1620.

1621 - 1622

Juan Jimenez de Montalvo

President of the Audiencia.

1622 - 1629

Diego Fernandez de Cordoba

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Spain 1612-1621).


A Portuguese attack from Brazil on a Spanish mission results in the enslavement of 60,000 natives. The raid is one of a series in what is effectively a low level war of territorial conquest, despite Spain governing the Portuguese.

1629 - 1639

Luis Jeronimo Fernandez de Cabrera

Later governor of Rio de la Plata (1641).

Cabrera puts down an uprising by the native Uros and Mapuche natives.

1639 - 1648

Pedro Alvarez de Toledo y Leiva

1648 - 1655

Garcia Sarmiento de Sotomayor

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Spain 1642-1648).

1655 - 1661

Luis Enriquez de Guzman

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Spain 1650-1653).


Pedro Bohorquez, a Spanish adventurer, crowns himself emperor Inca Hualpa of the Calchaqui natives, inciting their tribes to revolt. He is captured and eventually hung and beheaded. Rich landowners also chose this period to revolt against the government.

1661 - 1666

Diego de Benavides y de la Cueva

1666 - 1667

Bernardo de Iturriaza

President of the Audiencia.

1667 - 1672

Pedro Antonio Fernandez de Castro


The English privateer Henry Morgan takes the Peruvian port of Chagres, before capturing and sacking the city of Panama in Granada.

1672 - 1674

Bernardo de Iturriaza

President of the Audiencia, resumed interim vice-regency.

1674 - 1678

Baltasar de la Cueva Enriquez

1678 - 1681

Melchor Linan y Cisneros

Archbishop of Lima (and interim governor of New Granada 1671).

1681 - 1689

Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull

1689 - 1705

Melchor Portocarrero

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Spain 1686-1688).

1705 - 1707

Miguel Nunez de Sanabria

President of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1707 - 1710

Manuel de Oms y de Santa Pau


Miguel Nunez de Sanabria

President of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.

1710 - 1716

Diego Ladron de Guevara


Mateo de la Mata Ponce de Leon

President of the Audiencia governing on an interim basis.


Diego Morcillo Rubio de Aunon

1716 - 1720

Carmine Nicolao Caracciolo

1717 - 1724

The viceroyalty of New Granada is created from Peru's northern territories, Bogota, Panama, and Quito.

1720 - 1724

Diego Morcillo Rubio de Aunon


1724 - 1736

Jose de Armendariz


The viceroyalty of New Granada is recreated on a permanent basis.

1736 - 1745

Jose de Mendoza Caamano y Sotomayor

1742 - 1756

There is a native uprising under the leadership of Juan Santos Atahualpa in the Andean jungle provinces of Tarma and Jauja. Although Atahualpa dies in 1756, the area is not fully regained until the 1780s.

Cathedral of Santa Ana in Tarma
The Cathedral of Santa Ana in Tarma lay at the heart of the rebellious provinces in 1742, although the present version is a 1952 rebuild

1745 - 1761

Jose Antonio Manso de Velasco

Former governor of Chile.


The Treaty of Madrid between Portugal and Spain legitimises the established borders of the colonial territories in Peru and Brazil. The treaty also stipulates that Spain receives the Sacramento Colony and Portugal the Misiones Orientales, seven independent Jesuit missions in the upper River Uruguay. Spain and Portugal combine forces and crush the resisting colonies in the Guarani War of 1756 (as shown in the film, 'The Mission').

1761 - 1776

Manuel de Amat y Juniet


The viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata is created from Peru's southern territories, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and the Eastern Strip (Uruguay).

1776 - 1780

Manuel de Guirior

Spanish viceroy of Peru (and of New Granada 1773-1776).

1780 - 1781

Shortly after Manuel de Guiror is removed from office by the Crown's inspector, the Inca begin an uprising in Peru led by Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui Noguera under the name Tupac Amaru II. It is a result of oppressive Spanish control, and it takes the new governor a year of fighting to regain control. Known as the Tupac Amaru Rebellion, its leader is killed during the fighting against the Spanish with the result that he becomes a near-mythical figure in the Peruvian struggle for independence.

1780 - 1784

Agustin de Jauregui y Aldecoa

Former captain-general of Chile.

1784 - 1790

Teodoro de Croix

1790 - 1796

Francisco Gil de Taboada y Lemos

1796 - 1801

Ambrosio O'Higgins

Former captain-general of Chile.


Manuel Arredondo y Pelegrin

President of the Audiencia.

1801 - 1806

Gabriel de Aviles y del Fierro

Formerly in Chile (1796) & Rio de la Plata (1799).

1806 - 1816

Jose Fernando de Abascal y Sousa

Named viceroy of Rio de la Plata in 1804 but took Peru instead.


Following the French occupation of Spain and the subsequent weakening of the crown, various wars of independence break out across the Spanish Americas, including New Spain and Guatemala. Peru serves as a centre for the royalist opposition to these revolts. When Buenos Aires revolts in May, Abascal reincorporates the provinces of Chile, Cordoba, La Paz and Potosi (both in modern Bolivia), and Quito (part of New Granada) from Rio de la Plata.

Spain's American colonies declare independence in 1811
Thanks to France's occupation of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, Spain's colonies in the Americas quickly took the opportunity to declare their independence

1816 - 1821

Joaquin de la Pezuela

1820 - 1821

On 8 September 1820, the Liberation Expedition of Peru is organised in Chile and lands on the beach near the city of Pisco in Peru, under the command of Jose de San Martin. Lima is occupied on 21 July 1821 after negotiations with the viceroy fail. The independence of Peru from Spain is proclaimed on 28 July, with the viceroy retiring to Cusco with a sizable armed force under his command.

1821 - 1824

Jose de la Serna e Hinojosa

Acting viceroy.


Despite temporarily recovering Lima, the acting viceroy is defeated in open battle against nationalist leader Simon Bolivar. Royalist control of Peru is reduced to a small area around the city of Ayacucho, in the south-central highlands. On 9 December the Battle of Ayacucho (or the Battle of La Quinua), is won by the nationalists under Antonio Jose de Sucre, Bolivar's lieutenant, at Pampa de La Quinua, close to Ayacucho. The viceroy, Serna, captured after the battle, agrees that the Spanish will leave Peru. Juan Pio de Tristan y Moscoso assumes the office of provisional viceroy in order to transfer power to the nationalists.

1824 - 1826

Juan Pio de Tristan y Moscoso

Nominal viceroy, but not exercising power. Died 1860.

Modern Peru
1821 - Present Day

The early years of the new republic were marked by power struggles. A provisional government was formed between 1821-1822, with a republic being declared in 1822. Elected president in 1824, the former nationalist leader Simon Bolivar turned created a dictatorship four years later, but his governance was also very short-lived. In fact, Peru's nineteenth century history was scarred by repeated dictatorships.

The name Peru originates from that of a native ruler who lived near the Bay of San Miguel in Panama in the earliest days of exploration into South America. In 1522 Biru was visited by Spanish explorers who were venturing into new territory for the colonists, and the name came to be used to designate all of the initial conquests to the south. In modern times the country's population is a reflection of that colonial period, consisting of the descendants of European settlers and African slaves, native Amerindians, and Asians.

1821 - 1824

After the provisional government creates a republic in 1822, the Peruvian congress names the president of Gran Colombia, Simon Bolivar, president of Peru on 10 February 1824. He is able to reorganise the armed forces and decisively defeat the Spanish at the Battle of Ayacucho in that year.

1824 - 1830

Simon Bolivar

Also president of Bolivia & Gran Colombia.

1824 - 1830

During Bolivar's presidency, in 1825 the Congress of Upper Peru creates the republic of Bolivia, which is named after him. Trying to prevent the break-up of Gran Colombia, he proclaims himself dictator on 27 August 1828, but the following year Peru fights Gran Colombia over the latter's claim that its territory extends beyond the Andes mountain range to the River Amazon, and includes the Amazonian basin. The war is ended with the Battle of Tarqui and the Gual-Larrea Treaty being signed on 22 September. The treaty specifies that the Colombian-Peruvian border is to retain the line it bore under Spanish colonial control (the peace lasts until 1859). Bolivar resigns the post of dictator on 27 April 1830 after an assassination attempt dents his confidence.

Simon Bolivar
Simon Bolivar was proclaimed 'the Liberator' for his work in freeing much of South America from Spanish colonial control, although his attempts to forge a new 'super-state' from the former colonies came to nothing

1833 - 1836

A coup by Pedro Pablo Bermudez is succeeded by a second coup under Felipe Santiago Salaverry on 23 February 1835, leading to a further year of dictatorship. Salaverry is defeated and executed by Bolivian forces which invade the country. Juan Pio de Tristan y Moscoso, having chosen to remain in Peru after independence, participates in the creation of the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation which survives until 1839.

1833 - 1835

Pedro Pablo Bermudez

Dictator. Deposed in a second coup.

1835 - 1836

Felipe Santiago Salaverry

Dictator. Deposed and executed.

1836 - 1841

The dictator of Peru is defeated and executed by Bolivian forces which invade the country. Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz creates the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation which survives until 1839. Tension between the confederation and Chile leads to the latter declaring war on 28 December 1836. Chile's ally, the Argentine confederation, follows suit on 9 May 1837. Eventual defeat for Bolivia comes in 1839 and Santa Cruz flees to Ecuador. A period of stability within Peru follows. In 1841, the new Peruvian president attempts to return the favour by invading Bolivia, but he is defeated and killed.

1859 - 1860

Arguing that treaties signed with Gran Colombia have been rendered void upon the dissolution of that federation, Peru fights another war over disputed territory bordering the Amazon, this time with the federation's successor in the region, Ecuador.


Pedro Diez Canseco Corbacho

Dictator or 'interim president'. Deposed.

1865 - 1868

With the resources which had made the country stable since the 1830s having been squandered, Peru is now heavily indebted and political in-fighting is on the rise. A dictatorship is formed under Prado after a coup removes the previous dictator.

1865 - 1868

Mariano Ignacio Prado

Dictator. Resigned.

1879 - 1883

Spain recognises the independence of Peru in 1879. Another dictatorship is formed almost immediately under Nicolas de Pierola, but his Peru is defeated by Chile in the War of the Pacific between 1879-1883. After Lima is occupied, the country loses the provinces of Arica and Tarapaca. Internal struggles following the war are followed by a period of stability under the Civilista Party.

1879 - 1881

Nicolas de Pierola

Dictator. Defeated by Chilean forces and resigned.


The Herrera-Garcia Treaty is negotiated by the king of Spain between Peru and Ecuador over their ongoing border dispute. However, the terms are not considered favourable to Peru so the parliament attempts to introduce amendments, which Ecuador refuses, pulling out of negotiations.


On 29 May, supporters of the opposition Democratic Party force their way into the presidential palace to demand the president's resignation. However, Augusto Leguia refuses and is kidnapped and taken to the Bolivar Monument where he repeats his refusal to resign. The police arrive and rescue the president by force in a battle which results in over a hundred deaths.

During the same period the country's border with Brazil is settled with the signing of the Treaty of Velarde-Rio Branco. This sets the border along the rivers of Yaravi and Yaverija. In the case of Bolivia, the Treaty of Polo-Bustamante formally partitions Lake Titicaca, and also marks the boundary with Tacna (which until then had been part of Chile).

1917 - 1918

In October 1917, Peru declares for the allies in the First World War against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire, but plays no active part in the conflict.


Leguia returns to office and, fearing the government will not recognise his re-election as president, launches a successful military coup. From there, a new parliament is convened which elects him constitutional president. Leguia introduces a new, more liberal constitution and proceeds to ignore it himself, ruling in dictatorial style.

1919 - 1930

Augusto Bernardino Leguia

Dictator. Overthrown during the world economic depression.

1922 - 1930

With the signing of the Treaty of Salomon-Lozano, Leguia agrees the borders with Colombia by seceding all territory between the Putumayo and Caqueta rivers, to the detriment of both Peru and Ecuador. The treaty is only published after the overthrow of Leguia on 22 August 1930.

1932 - 1933

In March 1932 the president, Luis Sanchez, is the target of an attempted assassination as he leaves church. The assassin misses his target and the president almost shoots him in return, only being stopped by his bodyguards. In June a minor revolt is put down, and in September a revolt seizes a whole town. By the end of that month, the Treaty of Salomon-Lozano has been declared null and void and Peru and Colombia prepare for war, although it is never announced as such. Before hostilities can commence, on 30 April 1933, Sanchez is shot through the heart as he finishes reviewing twenty thousand young army recruits. His replacement negotiates peace with Colombia (by 1934) and introduces a new constitution.


Peru signs an agreement with Ecuador which agrees that the territories they each control along the disputed border are recognised as de facto possessions, and the '1936 status quo border line' is confirmed.

1941 - 1942

The Ecuadorian-Peruvian War is fought between 5 July 1941 and 31 July 1942 as a continuation of the 1840 war. The Rio Protocol brings peace until 1960. In 1942 Peru also becomes the first South American nation to declare war against Germany and its allies.


Despite having a president who has attempted to liberalise the country, in October 1948, rebel sailors and officers seize five warships, locking up or shooting their commanders, and send landing parties ashore under cover of a ragged bombardment. Sailors already on shore take over the Naval Academy, the Naval Armoury, and the Real Felipe Fortress. Troops loyal to the government crush the revolt and the president, Jose Bustamante, suspends all civil rights. It is not enough for the military cabinet who, responding to economic strife, stage a coup on 29 October. The coup leader takes over as president.

1948 - 1956

Manuel Apolinario Odria

Dictator. Arranged elections in 1956 and stepped down.


President Velaco declares the Rio Protocol with Ecuador to be null and void, although little immediate impact is caused by the decision.


Another coup, this time by Ricardo Perez Godoy and Nicolas Lindley Lopez, both generals in the Peruvian army, delivers a year of government by military junta under Godoy. He is deposed by Lindley who delivers democratic elections to the country, turning over the office of president to election winner Fernando Belaunde.

1962 - 1963

Ricardo Perez Godoy

Dictator. Overthrown by his coup co-conspirators.


Nicolas Lindley Lopez

Dictator. Arranged free elections for the same year.

1968 - 1980

Belaunde is removed from office in a military coup. The country is ruled by the army under General Velasco, who manages to destroy the economy.

1968 - 1975

Juan Velasco Alvarado

Dictator. Overthrown in a coup.

1975 - 1980

Francisco Morales Bermudez

Dictator. Stepped down after elections.

1979 - 1980

With the country in economic depression, the military allows an election to restore constitutional rule. Fernando Belaunde's return fails to halt the rise of internal conflict, especially by the left-wing Shining Path movement. However, he comes to be regarded as the father of Peru's modern democracy.


Peru and Ecuador clash briefly in the Paquisha War, little more than a border skirmish. Both sides increase their military presence as a result.


Following the sudden and unexpected occupation by Argentina of the Falkland Islands, Peru promises support while Chile sides with Britain.

1985 - 1990

President Alan Garcia's presidency leaves the country with hyperinflation and no progress against the growing Shining Path rebel movement. Garcia also has the question of his involvement in human rights abuses hanging over his head. He is replaced by the half-Japanese president, Alberto Fujimori.


A new constitution is drafted.

1995 - 1998

The aftermath of the 1995 Cenepa War between Peru and Ecuador sees one of the western hemisphere's longest territorial disputes reach a final conclusion. On 26 October 1998 both countries sign a definitive peace agreement.

San Francisco Convent, Lima
The Spanish neo-Classical San Francisco Convent in Lima, the capital of Peru, was completed in 1774

2000 - 2005

Fujimori has fared little better than his predecessor on the human rights issue, although he has brought an end to Shining Path's fifteen year reign of terror and has noticeably improved the economy. Now facing a corruption scandal, he flees to Japan. Following a visit to Chile in 2005 he is arrested and faces deportation to Peru.

2006 - 2007

Alan Garcia regains power, still with questions hanging over him regarding his conduct. However, he is regarded as the lesser of two evils by voters who are more worried by Venezuela gaining political influence over the country. In 2007, former president Fujimori is handed over to Peru to face charges and imprisonment for six years.