Read about Cuban history, from before the 16th century, when Cuba was inhabited by indigenous peoples, up to the present day. The last few centuries, from the 16th to the 20th, features articles about numerous important events.
Interactively explore the island's history using our Java-based timeline.
The 15th century, and before, was largely a time of peaceful living for the indigenous people of Cuba. It was only at the end of the 15th century that Europeans (led by Columbus) discovered the island and brought the indigenous culture to ruins.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Cuba was almost exclusively dominated by Spanish colonial rule. Cuba acted as a hub of commerce between Europe and the New World. Accordingly, the slave trade through Cuba grew rapidly, ending only in the 1800s. The indigenous population was all but decimated by murder, starvation, slavery, and European diseases.
The 18th century saw significant development in Cuba's economy and infrastructure. It was during this time that Spain began to develop Cuba's natural resources rather than just treating the island as a trading station. The only major break in Spanish prosperity during this time was the British occupation of Havana.
The 19th century was a time of gradual decline for the Spanish in Cuba. Facing increased resistance from Cuban revolutionaries, Spanish authority eroded over the course of this century.
From the turn of the century to the present day, the 20th century has been a time of many changes in Cuba. With a new threat to true independence emerging in American imperialism, the Cuban struggle must have seemed to be a lost cause at times. Finally, with a stable government under Castro in place, Cubans can enjoy basic improvements in their standard of living.