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Peru History

The area now known as Peru was inhabited long before the arrival of the Spanish. Various smaller ethnic groups controlled regions and cities before the ascendance of the Inca from the Cusco region in about 1440. The Inca conquered the region and established Cusco as the center of their Empire.

The Inca were talented mathematicians and stonemasons. They built formidable cities and fortifications, and were skilled rulers. Interestingly, their civilization was not familiar with the wheel and axle, and all of the heavy stones for their cities were transported by sled or rolled on logs. They did not have books and writing, but did have quipus-complex sets of colored cords knotted in certain patterns. At least in terms of mathematics, these cords were as accurate as writing. Although some quipus still exist in museums, the art of being able to decipher them has been lost.

When a Spanish expedition arrived in 1532 under Francisco Pizarro, they found an Inca Empire in chaos. A bloody civil war had torn the empire apart, with two brothers-Atahuallpa in the north and Huascar in the south-fighting for dominance. Not long after the arrival of the Spanish, Huascar was captured by Atahuallpa's forces. When Atahuallpa was captured by the Spanish at Cajamarca, he ordered Huascar executed so that he alone would be the Inca. Unfortunately for Atahuallpa, Huascar was the elder brother, which under the European system of inheritance made him Inca. The Spanish branded Atahuallpa a traitor and usurper and murdered him after collection on a huge ransom of gold and silver. Subsequently, the Spanish would base their legal claim to Andean lands on the notion that since they had taken them from a 'usurper,' their continued occupation was just and legal.

In the 1540s, the Spanish conquistadores fell to warring among themselves in a series of civil wars that were every bit as brutal as the conquest had been. Francisco Pizarro himself was hacked down in the street. It wasn't until the arrival of a series of Viceroys in the latter half of the century that the situation calmed down. The most notable of the Viceroys was Francisco de Toledo, who ruled from 1569 to 1581. Toledo toured the vast lands of Peru, taking with him mapmakers, historians and bureaucrats. He often kept Inca policies and legal precedents in place when he could.

By the latter half of the sixteenth century, precious metals had been discovered in abundance in parts of Peru, and gold and silver from the region was shipped to Spain for more than two centuries. In the early 1800s, Peru was one of the last countries to declare independence from Spain, largely because the capital city of Lima was very loyal. Even so, Peru declared itself independent in 1821. What followed was a long period of instability: Peru had 59 presidents from 1821 to 1900. Although it fared a little better in the twentieth century, there was still a great deal of chaos: Peru had five different presidents in 1931 alone. As recently as 1980 Peru was ruled by the military, although in recent years a fragile democracy has seemingly taken root.

During the 1980s, Peru was plagued by the twin evils of cocaine production and insurgency. The Maoist Shining Path insurgent group controlled huge areas of the Peruvian countryside and operated with impunity in Lima at the height of its power. Atrocities were committed on both sides as the government sought to put down the rebellion. In the 1990s the administration of Japanese-Peruvian mathematician Alberto Fujimori was successful in bringing the economy under control and in eliminating the terrorism of the Shining Path. The Shining Path's leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured in Lima in 1992, and the group never recovered. Although he was re-elected in 2000, Fujimori was forced to flee to Japan in order to avoid being indicted for corruption.

In the run-off election, the people of Peru elected Alejandro Toledo, one of sixteen children and a former shoeshine boy who also happens to be native Andean. This marked the first time since Atahuallpa that the area of Peru was ruled by a non-European. The Toledo administration was marked by several scandals, including everything from forging registration signatures to an illegitimate daughter. International observers, however, credit Toledo with sparking some limited growth in the economy.

In June 2006, Alan García Pérez, who had served as president from 1985 to 1990, was re-elected president from 2006-2011. During his term, Peru experienced an average seven percent growth rate in GDP per year. But a cost came with the rapid economic upheaval; the methods used to achieve this growth raised concerns among critics over environmental degradation and increased social conflict. Ollanta Humala, who ran a center-left campaign in 2011 beat out Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Alberto Fujimori, in a narrow election and is serving as the current president of Peru, with an agenda to continue to improve economic growth, but place a higher focus on social mediation and improving the conditions of the impoverished.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Peru: History, Abimael Guzman, Trujillo History, History Of The Pacific Coast South Of Lima, History, Inca , History of Lima, History , History Of Tacna and Colca Canyon History.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
14 Jun 2012

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