1565 - First permanent European settlement in North America - St Augustine, present-day Florida - founded by the Spanish. North America is already inhabited by several distinct groups of people, who go into decline following the arrival of settlers.
1607 - Jamestown, Virginia, founded by English settlers, who begin growing tobacco.
1620 - Plymouth Colony, near Cape Cod, is founded by the Pilgrim Fathers, whose example is followed by other English Puritans in New England.
17th-18th centuries - Hundreds of thousands of Africans brought over and sold into slavery to work on cotton and tobacco plantations.
1763 - Britain gains control of territory up to the Mississippi river following victory over France in Seven Years' War.
War of Independence
1774 - Colonists form First Continental Congress as Britain closes down Boston harbour and deploys troops in Massachusetts.
1775 - American Revolution: George Washington leads colonist Continental Army to fight against British rule.
1776 4 July - Thomas Jefferson's American Declaration of Independence endorsed by Congress; colonies declare independence.
1781 - Rebel states form loose confederation, codified in Articles of Confederation, after defeating the British at the Battle of Yorktown.
16th president preserved Union, emancipated slaves
Born in Kentucky, 1809
Known as 'Honest Abe' and the 'Great Emancipator'
His Gettysburg Address honoured the Union dead, set out the principles they died for
Assassinated in 1865
1783 - Britain accepts loss of colonies by virtue of Treaty of Paris.
1787 - Founding Fathers draw up new constitution for United States of America. Constitution comes into effect in 1788.
1789 - George Washington elected first president of USA.
1791 - Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedom.
1803 - France sells Louisiana territories to USA.
1808 - Atlantic slave trade abolished.
1812-15 - War of 1812 between the US and Britain, partly over the effects of British restrictions on US trade during the Napoleonic Wars.
19th century - Residual resistance by indigenous people crushed as immigration from Europe assumes mass proportions, with settlers moving westwards and claiming "manifest destiny" to control North America; number of states in the union rises from 17 to 45.
1846-48 - US acquires vast tracts of Mexican territory in wake of Mexican War including California and New Mexico.
1854 - Opponents of slavery, or abolitionists, set up Republican Party.
1860 - Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln elected president.
1860-61 - Eleven pro-slavery southern states secede from Union and form Confederate States of America under leadership of Jefferson Davis, triggering civil war with abolitionist northern states.
1863 - Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in Confederate states to be free.
1865 - Confederates defeated; slavery abolished under Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln is assassinated.
1876 - Sioux Indians defeat US troops at Little Big Horn.
1890 - US troops defeat Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee.
1898 - US gains Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Cuba following the Spanish-American war. US annexes Hawaii.
World War I and the Great Depression
1917-18 - US intervenes in World War I, rejects membership of League of Nations.
1920 - Women given the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment.
1920 - Sale and manufacture of alcoholic liquors outlawed. The Prohibition era sees a mushrooming of illegal drinking joints, home-produced alcohol and gangsterism.
1924 - Congress gives indigenous people right to citizenship.
1929-33 - 13 million people become unemployed after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 triggers what becomes known as the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover rejects direct federal relief.
1933 - President Franklin D Roosevelt launches "New Deal" recovery programme which includes major public works. Sale of alcohol resumes.
World War II and the Cold War
1941 - Japanese warplanes attack US fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii; US declares war on Japan; Germany declares war on US, which thereafter intervenes on a massive scale in World War II, eventually helping to defeat Germany.
1945 - US drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrenders.
1947 - US enunciates policy of aid for nations it deems threatened by communism in what became known as the Truman Doctrine. Cold War with Soviet Union begins.
1948 - America's programme to revive ailing post-war European economies - the Marshall Plan - comes into force. Some $13bn is disbursed over four years and the plan is regarded as a success.
1950-54 - Senator Joseph McCarthy carries out a crusade against alleged communists in government and public life; the campaign and its methods become known as McCarthyism. In 1954 McCarthy is formally censured by the Senate.
1950-53 - US forces play leading role against North Korean and Chinese troops in Korean War.
Desegregation and the Vietnam war
1954 - Racial segregation in schools becomes unconstitutional; start of campaign of civil disobedience to secure civil rights for Americans of African descent.
1960 - Democratic Party candidate John F Kennedy elected president, narrowly defeating his rival Richard Nixon.
1961 - Bay of Pigs invasion: an unsuccessful attempt to invade Cuba by Cuban exiles, organised and financed by Washington.
1962 - US compels Soviet Union to withdraw nuclear weapons from Cuba in what has become known as the Cuban missile crisis.
1963 - President John F Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon Johnson becomes president.
1964 - US steps up its military intervention in Vietnam. Civil Rights Act signed into law; it aims to halt discrimination on grounds of race, colour, religion, nationality.
1968 - Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King assassinated.
1969 - Republican Party candidate Richard Nixon elected president amid growing public opposition to Vietnam war. US military presence in Vietnam exceeds 500, 000 personnel.