A chronology of key events
circa 2500 BC - Palau's first inhabitants - thought to have come from present-day eastern Indonesia - settle in the islands. The early Palauans develop complex social systems, practice fishing and farming.
First encounter with the West
English captain Henry Wilson's vessel, 'Antelope', was shipwrecked on one of the islands of Palau in 1783
1783 - English captain Henry Wilson is shipwrecked on a reef and becomes the first Westerner to visit. Wilson and his crew stay for three months and rebuild their vessel with local help. European contacts grow and Britain becomes Palau's main trading partner.
1885 - Spain asserts its claim to the islands.
1899 - Spain sells Palau to Germany, which begins to exploit the islands' resources using native labour. Phosphate is mined and coconut plantations are developed.
1914 - After Germany's defeat in World War I, Japan seizes Palau. The main town, Koror, is developed and becomes the administrative centre for Japan's regional possessions. The Japanese civilian population in Palau peaks at 26,000.Second World War
1940-45 - Japan's military fortifications and naval facilities in Palau are targeted in allied attacks during World War II. Some Palauan islands witness fierce fighting between US and Japanese forces.
1947 - Palau becomes a United Nations Trust Territory under US administration.
World War II
US Marines attack Japanese troops positioned in Palau
1979 - Palau - and the Marshall Islands - opt not to become part of a single, federal Micronesian state.
1981 - Republic of Palau comes into being, following the territory's adoption of a constitution in July 1980. President Haruo Remeliik takes office.
1983-90 - Successive referendums on a proposed Compact of Free Association with the US fail to approve the arrangement, under which Palau would manage its own affairs and the US would retain responsibility for defence.
1985 - President Haruo Remeliik is assassinated in June. Lazarus Salii is elected president in September 1985.
1988 - President Salii dies in an apparent suicide. He is succeeded by President Ngiratkel Etpison.
1992 - President Kuniwo Nakamura is elected, and re-elected in 1996.
1993 - After investigations by US authorities a Palau minister of state and his wife are found guilty of the 1985 murder of President Remeliik.
1993 - Proposed Compact of Free Association with the US gets the green light in a referendum. Requirements for the mandate were changed in a 1992 vote; only a simple majority vote was needed to approve the compact.Independence
1994 - Palau becomes independent under the Contract of Free Association with the US. Palau receives financial and other aid from Washington, and the US retains responsibility for defence and the right to operate military bases. Palau joins the UN.
2000 November - Former vice president Tommy Remengesau wins presidential elections.
2003 August - Palau signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
2004 November - Incumbent President Tommy Remengesau is re-elected.
Referendum backs constitutional changes allowing dual citizenship, limiting terms in congress to three and allowing president and vice-president to stand for election as a team.
2006 October - Government institutions begin the move to a new capital, Melekeok.
2008 November - Former ambassador to Taiwan Johnson Toribiong wins presidential election, beating outgoing Vice-President Elias Camsek Chin.
2009 January - President Toribiong inaugurated.
2009 September - Palau creates world's first "shark sanctuary", banning all commercial shark fishing in its waters.
2009 October - Six Chinese ethnic Uighurs are freed from US military prison at Guantanamo Bay and sent to Palau for resettlement.
2010 January - US agrees to give Palau additional aid of $250 million, after Palau had rejected an earlier offer of $156 million. President Toribiong denies any linkage to Palau's agreement to host the Guantanamo Uighurs.
2012 November - Parliamentary and presidential elections.