A chronology of key events:
1500 - Portuguese land in the area and claim it to the Portuguese crown.
1822 - Son of Portuguese king declares independence from Portugal and crowns himself Peter I, Emperor of Brazil.
1888 - Slavery abolished. Large influx of European immigrants over the next decade.
1889 - Monarchy overthrown, federal republic established with central government controlled by coffee interests. Brazil produces 65% of world's coffee by 1902.
1930 - Revolt places Getulio Vargas at head of provisional revolutionary government.
1937 - Vargas leads coup, rules as dictator with military backing. Economy placed under authoritarian state control, start of social welfare revolution and reform of laws governing industry.
1939-45 - Brazil initially declares itself neutral but in 1943 joins Allies in World War II.
1945 - Vargas ousted in military coup. Elections held under caretaker government. New constitution returns power to states.
1951 - Vargas elected president, but faces stiff opposition.
1954 - Vargas commits suicide after military gives him the options of resigning or being overthrown.
1956-61 - Juscelino Kubitschek is president, helping Brazil achieve rapid economic growth.
1960 - Kubitschek moves capital to Brasilia.
1960 - Janio Quadros elected president, but resigns after several months, plunging country into constitutional crisis. Succeeded by left-wing vice-president Joao Goulart.
1964 - Goulart ousted in bloodless coup, flees into exile. Military rule associated with repression but also with rapid economic growth based on state-ownership of key sectors.
1974 - General Ernesto Geisel becomes president, introduces reforms which allow limited political activity and elections.
1982 - Brazil halts payment of its main foreign debt, which is among the world's biggest.
1985 - Tancredo Neves elected first civilian president in 21 years under the electoral college system set up by the military, but falls ill before he can be inaugurated and dies shortly afterwards. His vice president Jose Sarney becomes president at time of economic crisis.
1986 - Sarney introduces Cruzado Plan, freezing prices and wages in effort to control inflation. But inflation explodes when freeze is lifted.
1988 - New constitution reduces presidential powers.
1989 - Fernando Collor de Mello becomes first directly elected president since 1960. Introduces radical economic reform but promised economic improvements fail to materialise, and inflation remains out of control.
Foreign debt payments are suspended.
1992 - Earth Summit in Rio.
Collor resigns after being accused of corruption. He is later cleared. Replaced by vice president Itamar Franco.
1994 - Fernando Henrique Cardoso elected president after helping to bring inflation under control. Makes controversial moves on land issue, seizing land for distribution among poor, and allowing indigenous land claims to be challenged.
1995 - President Cardoso acknowledges the existence of slavery in Brazil and pledges to tackle the problem.
1996 - Police kill 19 Amazon peasants in town of Eldorado dos Carajas.
PRESIDENTS OF THE 90's
Fernando Collor de Mello (left) stepped down in disgrace; Fernando Henrique Cardoso served two terms
1997 - Constitution changed to allow president to run for re-election.
1998 - Cardoso re-elected. IMF provides rescue package after economy hit by collapse of Asian stock markets.
2000 - Celebrations to mark Brazil's 500th anniversary marred by protests by indigenous Indians, who say that racial genocide, forced labour and disease have dramatically cut their population from an estimated 5 million before the Portuguese arrived in 1500 to the current 350,000.
2001 - Government says it is prepared to amend a development programme which critics say will have a catastrophic impact on the Amazon. Government expects to spend $40 billion over seven years on roads, railways, hydroelectric projects and housing in the Amazon basin.
2001 May - President Cardoso abolishes two development agencies for the Amazon and the north-east. The authorities say the agencies set up bogus projects to steal development funds estimated at more than $1 billion.
2002 March - Members of the Landless Workers Movement, demanding land reform, occupy President Cardoso's family ranch.
2002 June - Fans jubilant as Brazil triumphs in World Cup - the football-mad country's fifth such victory.
2002 July - Currency hits all-time low and financial markets panic over the prospect of left-winger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva winning October's presidential elections.
2002 October - Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, wins presidential elections. The former shoeshine boy heads Brazil's first left-wing government for more than 40 years. At his inauguration in January 2003 he promises political and economic reforms and pledges to eradicate hunger.
2003 August - Space rocket explodes on the ground at the Alcantara launch base, killing 21 people.
2004 April - Wave of land invasions, dubbed "Red April" by activists.
2004 September - Brazil, along with Germany, India and Japan, launches an application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
2004 October - Brazil launches its first space rocket.
2005 February - Murder of US-born missionary and campaigner for Amazon peasant farmers Dorothy Stang throws conflict over land and resources in Amazon into spotlight. Government unveils plan to protect part of region from encroachment.
2005 March - Death squad kills at least 30 people on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, the city's worst massacre in over a decade. It is suggested that rogue police are responsible.
2005 June-August - Corruption allegations rock the governing Workers' Party. A wave of resignations ensues. The president makes a televised apology.
2005 October - Voters in a referendum reject a proposal to ban the sale of firearms.
2006 May - Scores of people are killed in gang attacks and a police backlash in Sao Paulo state. The violence is sparked by a series of prison uprisings.
2006 October - President Lula is re-elected.
2007 July - Anti-slavery team frees more than 1,000 people from a sugar-cane plantation in the Amazon.
2007 August - Government officially recognizes for first time human rights abuses carried out under military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985. More than 500 people are believed to have been killed or "disappeared".
2007 December - The speaker of the Brazilian Senate and a key ally of President Lula, Renan Calheiros, resigns in order to avoid an imminent impeachment hearing following a long-running corruption scandal.
2008 January - The EU halts all imports of Brazilian beef, saying its foot-and-mouth disease checks are "unacceptable".
2008 May - Environment minister Marina Silva resigns, after conflicts with the government over Amazon development.
2008 July - A congressional commission rejects a bid to legalise abortion in the world's most populous Catholic nation.
2008 August - Government launches scheme offering cash payments and immunity for illegal weapons, in an effort to get 300,000 guns off the streets.
2008 September - President Lula suspends intelligence chiefs amid allegations their agencies spied on officials, politicians and judges.
2008 October - Brazil turns down an invitation from Iran to join the international oil cartel, Opec.
2009 June - Brazil says it will offer $10bn to the International Monetary Fund, to help improve the availability of credit in developing countries.
2009 July - Brazil and Paraguay reach a deal to end their long-running dispute over the cost of energy from the giant Itaipu hydro-electric plant on their border.
2009 October - The government says it is to set up a truth commission to investigate abuses committed during military rule in Brazil from 1964 to 1985.
2009 November - Brazil's two largest cities - Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo - are hit by major blackouts due to a problem at a massive hydro-electric dam.
2010 March - President Lula begins push for bigger Brazilian diplomatic role with visit to Middle East. Weeks later he goes to Iran.
2010 August - Brazil gives formal approval for construction of controversial hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest, expected to be the world's third largest.
First woman president
2010 October - Dilma Rousseff, of President Lula's Workers' Party, wins second round run-off to become Brazil's first female president.
2011 January - Opening of controversial road connecting Brazil's Atlantic coast with Peru's Pacific seaboard.
2011 May - Chamber of Deputies votes to ease restrictions on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest, raising fears of further deforestation in the Amazon.
2011 June - Brazil grants building permit for Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon, a project opposed by indigenous groups and environmentalists.
2011 June - Security forces occupy one of the biggest slums in Rio de Janeiro, as part of a major crackdown on organised crime ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
2011 June - President Rousseff's chief of staff resigns amid corruption allegations.
2011 June - Government launches Brasil Sem Miseria (Brazil Without Poverty) welfare scheme, aimed at lifting millions out of extreme poverty.
2011 November - Brazil indigenous Guarani leader Nisio Gomes shot dead in western Brazil. He was part of a Guarani Kaiowa group that had returned to their ancestral land after being evicted by ranchers.
2012 May - Truth Commission starts investigating abuses during 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
President Rousseff vetoes parts of a controversial bill which regulates how much land farmers must preserve as forest.