1652. The first Dutch settlement is established on the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company.In the coming decades, French Huguenots, the Dutch, and Germans establish settlements along the coast. Eventually, they go to war with indigenous peoples to establish their claims to the land.
1795-1803. First British occupation of the Cape, leading to tensions between the British and the Afrikaners, the name for the original European settlers in the area.
1806. Second British occupation of the Cape occurs.
1814. Holland cedes the Cape to Britain.
1836. Afrikaner farmers, known as Boers, undertake a "Great Trek" to establish settlements in the South African interior. They battle the native Zulus for control of the area. The Zulus retain control of some parts of the interior until 1879.
1847-49. British immigrants arrive in Natal, and soon sugar is grown in the area.
1852-54. The independent Boer Republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State are created, straining relations with the ruling British.
1869. Diamonds are discovered near Kimberley.
1880-81. The first Anglo-Boer War is fought between British troops and Afrikaner settlers (Boers).
1886. Gold is discovered in the Witwatersrand region of the Transvaal.
1887. Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is established
1899-1902. The second Anglo-Boer War breaks out, with the British gaining control of the Boer republics.
1910. The 2 republics and British colonies become the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire with Louis Botha as prime minister.
1912. Native blacks establish the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which later becomes the African National Congress (ANC), to protest the creation of laws and practices based on color.
1927. Compulsory segregation is announced.
1930. White women get to vote.
1948. The victory of the National Party (NP) in all-white elections leads to the creation of a strict policy of white domination and racial separation known as "apartheid."
1950-52. Passage of strict racial laws.
1960s. Following protests in the town of Sharpeville that leave 69 black protestors dead and hundreds injured, the ANC and the Pan-African Congress (PAC) are banned and ANC leader Nelson Mandela is imprisoned in 1962 on charges of treason. From this time onward the ANC functions as an illegal but powerful opposition force for black rights in South Africa.
1961. The nation leaves the British Commonwealth and becomes the independent Republic of South Africa.
1984. Revisions to the constitution give colored and Asian people a limited role in the national government, but power remains in white hands.
1990. Following years of mounting black protest and increasing sanctions against South Africa because of apartheid, President F.W. De Klerk announces the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the legalization of the ANC, PAC, and other anti-apartheid groups.
1991. The so-called "pillars of apartheid"—the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and Population Registration Act—are officially rescinded.
1994. First democratic elections take place in April under a new constitution. The ANC wins a majority in the legislature and elects Nelson Mandela as president.
1996. National Party pulls out of the Government of National Unity (GNU). First official census occurs in post-apartheid South Africa.
1999. In the country's second democratic elections the ANC increases its majority in the legislature and selects Thabo Mbeki as president.