Before Spanish settlement, many different indigenous peoples lived in the area, including the Araucano-Mapuche, Chiriguan, Choroti, Colla, Diaguitas, Guarani, Mocoví, Ona, Tehuelche, Toba, Wichí and Yamana.

Spanish exploration of the area began in the early 16th century, and a settlement called Puerto Nuestra Señora Santa Maria de Buen Aire (the Port of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Good Air) was founded at the mouth of the River Plata. Spanish colonists from Peru also settled the northern region, and the new colony was run from Peru. In the 18th century, some settlers took to hunting wild cattle in the Pampas. They called themselves Gauchos, adopted the ways of the indigenous people, and developed a distinct culture. 

In 1806 and 1807, the British tried to seize Buenos Aires but were defeated. In 1808, Napoleon deposed the king of Spain and appointed a new king. Argentinians refused to recognize this king and on May 25, 1810, a group of Argentinians overthrew the viceroy sent by the new king. On July 9, 1816, a national congress was held at Tucumán and Argentina declared itself an independent republic. In 1853, the country adopted a national constitution.

 Following independence, immigration from Europe increased. In the early 20th century, Argentina became a prosperous nation. In 1930, the army seized power and a series of dictators ruled. Juan Domingo Perón became president in 1946. He was married to María Eva Duarte, known as Evita, a popular public figure who died in 1952. Perón was overthrown by the armed forces in 1955 and exiled.

 Did you know? 
One of Argentina's greatest military leaders was General José Francisco de San Martín, who led an army across the Andes in 1817-18 to defeat the Spanish in Chile and who went on to defeat the Spanish in Peru in 1820-21. Statues of San Martín can be seen in many Argentinian towns.


The following period was turbulent, as Peronist and non-Peronist factions struggled for control. Perón returned from exile in 1973, but died a year later. His widow, Isabelita, became president, but in 1976 the military seized power again. The time that followed is known as the "Dirty War," as the military tried to suppress opposition to its government. As many as 30,000 people were killed during this period.

In 1982, Argentina went to war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). When Argentina was defeated, the military government lost prestige. In 1983, Raúl Alfonsín, a lawyer, was elected president during a return to democracy. A Peronist leader, Carlos Saul Menem, was elected in 1989. In 1994, Argentina adopted a new constitution.