This is the history of Peru. The entry History of South America provides some broader context.
Archeological evidence shows signs of human culture in Peru from as early as c.10,000 BC. Flint tools and even ruins of ceremonial temples can be found throughout Peru dating from then, and there are signs of that weaving, fishing, and horticulture began to develop there of the next 9 millennia. The first culture with which we are more familiar was the Chavin culture, which emerged c. 900 BC. Though the Chavin apparently built the first monumental temples, they did not seem to have developed a significant middle class.
The Paracas culture emerged on the southern coast in around 300 BC. They are known for their use of vicuña fibers instead of just cotton to produce fine textiles—innovations that did not reach the northern coast of Peru until centuries later. Coastal cultures such as the Moche and Nazca flourished from about 100 BCE to about 700 CE: The Moche produced impressive metalwork, as well as some of the finest pottery seen in the ancient world, while the Nazca are known for their textiles and the enigmatic Nazca lines.
These coastal cultures eventually began to decline as a result of recurring el Niño floods and droughts. In consequence, the Huari and Tiwanaku, who dwelled inland in the Andes became the predominant cultures of the region encompassing much modern-day Peru and Bolivia. They were succeeded by powerful city-states, such as Chancay , Sipan , and Cajamarca, and two empires: Chimor and Chachapoyas. Chimor, some of Chachapoyas, and countless city-states were eventually conquered by the Inca, who dominated the country until the Spanish conquest.
For a breakdown by of these cultures by era, see Cultural periods of Peru.
When the Spanish landed in 1531, Peru's territory was the nucleus of the highly developed Inca civilization. Centered at Cuzco, the Inca Empire extended over a vast region, stretching from northern Ecuador to central Chile. Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro arrived in the country searching for Inca wealth, and succeeded in conquering the Inca empire, which had recently been weakened by a debilitating civil war. By 1533, the Spanish had captured the Inca capital.
Establishing a stable colonial government was delayed for some time by native revolts and bands of the Conquistadores fighting among themselves. The new rulers instituted an encomienda system, by which the Conquistadores extracted tribute from the local population, part of which was forwarded to Seville in return for converting the natives to Christianity. Title to the land itself remained with the king of Spain. As governor of Peru, Pizarro used the encomienda system to grant virtually unlimited authority over groups of native Peruvians to his soldier companions, thus forming the colonial land-tenure structure. The indigenous inhabitants of Peru were now expected to raise Old World cattle, poultry, and crops for their landlords. Resistance was punished severely, giving rise to the "Black Legend".
In 1541, Pizarro was assassinated by a faction led by Diego de Almagro, and the stability of the original colonial regime was shaken up in the ensuing civil war. The following year, in 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru (in Spanish, Virreinato del Perú) was established, with authority over most of Spanish-ruled South America. (Colombia, Ecuador, Panamá and Venezuela were split off as the Viceroyalties of New Granada in 1717, and Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay were set up as the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776.)
In response to the internal strife plaguing the country, Spain finally sent Blasco Núñez Vela to be Peru's first viceroy in 1544. He was killed by Pizarro's brother, Gonzalo Pizarro, but a new viceroy, Pedro de la Gasca , eventually managed to restore order, and captured and executed Gonzalo Pizarro.
A census taken by the last Quipucamayoc indicated that there were 12 million inhabitants of Inca Peru: 45 years later, under viceroy Toledo, the census figures amounted to only 1,100,000 Indians. While the attrition was not an organized attempt at genocide, the results were similar. Inca cities were given Spanish Christian names and rebuilt as Spanish towns centered around a plaza with a church or cathedral facing an official residence. A few Inca cities like Cuzco retained native masonry for the foundations of their walls. Other Inca sites, like Huanuco Viejo , were abandoned for cities at lower altitudes more hospitable to the Spanish.
Once the Viceroyalty of Peru was established, gold and silver from the Andes enriched the conquerors, and Peru became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America.
The town of Lima, founded by Pizarro in 1535, became the seat of the new viceroyalty. It grew into a powerful city, with jurisdiction over all of Spanish South America except for Portuguese-dominated Brazil. All of the colonial wealth of South America passed through Lima on its way to the Isthmus of Panama and from there to Seville. The rest of the country was dependent upon Lima, in a pattern that persists until today in Peru. On the local level, Spanish encomenderos depended on local chieftains (curacas) to control even the most remote settlements, in a rigorous hierarchy. By the 18th century. Lima had become a distinguished and aristocratic colonial capital, seat of a university and the chief Spanish stronghold in the Americas.
Nevertheless, throughout this period, the Inca were not entirely suppressed. In the eighteenth century alone, there were fourteen large uprisings, the most important of which were that of Juan Santos Atahualpa in 1742, and Sierra Uprising of Tupac Amaru in 1780.
Peru's movement toward independence was launched by an uprising of Spanish landowners and their forces, led by José de San Martín of Argentina and Simón Bolívar of Venezuela. San Martin proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Emancipation— which in Peruvian history means emancipation of the landholding class from ineffective Spanish control— was finally completed in December 1824, when General Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending Spanish rule in South America. Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, but in 1879 it finally recognized Peru's independence.
After independence, Peru and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Chile's victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) resulted in Peru's loss of the Arica Province in the Tarapacá Region after Chile finally refused to return these territories as initially committed. The territorial loss and the extensive looting of Peruvian cities by Chilean troops left scars on the country's relations with Chile that have not yet fully healed.
Following the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War of 1941, the Rio Protocol sought to formalize the boundary between those two countries. Ongoing boundary disagreements led to a brief war in early 1981 and again in early 1995, but in 1998 the governments of both countries signed a historic peace treaty that clearly demarcated the international boundary between them. In late 1999, the governments of Peru and Chile likewise similarly implemented the last outstanding article of their 1929 border agreement.
Peru since 1945
In the mid-20th century, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre was a major force in Peruvian politics. Twice elected president, he was prevented by the military from taking office.
The military has been prominent in Peruvian history. Coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional government. The most recent period of military rule (1968-80) began when General Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew elected President Fernando Belaúnde Terry of the Popular Action Party (AP). As part of what has been called the "first phase" of the military government's nationalist program, Velasco undertook an extensive agrarian reform program and nationalized the fish meal industry, some petroleum companies, and several banks and mining firms.
General Francisco Morales Bermúdez replaced Velasco in 1975, citing Velasco's economic mismanagement and deteriorating health. Morales Bermúdez moved the revolution into a more conservative "second phase," tempering the authoritarian abuses of the first phase and beginning the task of restoring the country's economy. Morales Bermúdez presided over the return to civilian government in accordance with a new constitution drawn up in 1979. In the May 1980 elections, President Fernando Belaúnde Terry was returned to office by a strong plurality.
Nagging economic problems left over from the military government persisted, worsened by an occurrence of the "El Niño" weather phenomenon in 1982–83, which caused widespread flooding in some parts of the country, severe droughts in others, and decimated the schools of ocean fish that are one of the country's major resources. After a promising beginning, Belaúnde's popularity eroded under the stress of inflation, economic hardship, and terrorism.
During the 1980s, cultivation of illicit coca was established in large areas on the eastern Andean slope. Rural guerilla movements, like the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) increased during this time and derived significant financial support from alliances with the narcotraffickers. In 1985, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) won the presidential election, bringing Alan García to office. The transfer of the presidency from Belaúnde to García on July 28, 1985, was Peru's first exchange of power from one democratically elected leader to another in 40 years.
Economic mismanagement by the García administration led to hyperinflation from 1988 to 1990. Concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from Sendero Luminoso, and allegations of official corruption, voters chose a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Fujimori, as president in 1990. Fujimori implemented drastic orthodox measures that caused inflation to drop from 7,650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991. Faced with opposition to his reform efforts, Fujimori dissolved Congress in the auto-golpe of April 5, 1992. He then revised the constitution; called new congressional elections; and implemented substantial economic reform, including privatization of numerous state-owned companies, creation of an investment-friendly climate, and sound management of the economy.
Fujimori's administration was dogged by several insurgent groups, most notably Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), which carried on a terrorist campaign in the countryside throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He cracked down on the insurgents and was successful in largely quelling them by the late 1990s, but the fight against the insurgents was marred by atrocities committed by the Peruvian security forces, such as Barrios Altos massacre and La Cantuta massacre, which subsequently came to be seen as symbols of the human rights violations committed during the Fujimori presidency. In December 1996, a group of terrorists belonging to Tupac Amaru took over the Japanese embassy in Lima, taking 72 people hostage. Fujimori took personal command of security forces surrounding the embassy, and was present at the scene when they stormed the embassy compound in May 1997, killing all 14 hostage takers, one hostage, and 2 commandos. It later emerged, however, that eight of the rebels had been killed in cold blood after surrendering, following the orders of Fujimori's security chief Vladimiro Montesinos.
Fujimori's constitutionally questionable decision to seek a third term and subsequent tainted victory in June 2000 brought political and economic turmoil. A bribery scandal that broke just weeks after he took office in July forced Fujimori to call new elections in which he would not run. The scandal involved Vladimiro Montesinos, who was shown in a video broadcast on TV bribing a politician to change sides. Montesinos subsequently emerged as the center a vast web of illegal activities, including embezzlement, graft, drug trafficking, as well as human rights violations commited during the war against Sendero Luminoso. Fujimori resigned from office and fled the country in November 2000. The Peruvian government is currently seeking to extradite Fujimori from Japan, where he currently resides, to have him face war crimes and corruption charges.
His main intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, fled Peru shortly afterwards. Authorities in Venezuela arrested him in Caracas in June 2001 and turned him over to Peruvian authorities; he's now imprisoned and charged with acts of corruption and human rights violations committed during Fujimori's administration.
A caretaker government presided over by Valentín Paniagua took on the responsibility of conducting new presidential and congressional elections. The elections were held in April 2001; observers considered them to be free and fair. The new elected government, led by President Alejandro Toledo, took office July 28, 2001.
The Toledo government has restored a high degree of democracy to Peru following the authoritarianism and corruption of the Fujimori years. Suspects tried by military courts during the war against terrorism (1980-2000) are now set to receive new trials in civilian courts. Trials of those accused of corruption and collusion in the corrupt dealings of the Fujimori years are underway. On August 28, 2003, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR), which had been charged with studying the roots of the violence of the 1980–2000 period, presented its formal report to the President. The Government of Peru is now weighing its response to the CVR's recommendations that human rights violators be tried and that the government take measures to, in some fashion, indemnify parts of the population that suffered during those years, chiefly rural Peruvians of ethnically Indian descent.
President Toledo has made a number of cabinet changes, partly in response to scandals but also to create a more effective government. His recently appointed Prime Minister, Beatriz Merino, is not from Toledo's party, nor are a majority of other ministers. Toledo's governing coalition has a plurality in Congress and must negotiate on an ad hoc basis with other parties to form majorities on legislative proposals. Toledo's popularity in the polls has suffered throughout the past year, due in part to scandals and in part to dissatisfaction amongst workers with their share of benefits from Peru's macroeconomic success. After strikes by teachers and agricultural producers led to nationwide road blockages in May 2003, Toledo declared a state of emergency that suspended some civil liberties and gave the military power to enforce order in 12 departments. The state of emergency has since been reduced to only the few areas where the Shining Path terrorist group was operating. Potential candidates and their parties are already beginning to maneuver with an eye on the 2006 elections.