A chronology of key events:
1606 - European explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros leads an expedition to the islands naming them Terra Austrialis del Espiritu Santo.
1768 - Louis Antoine de Bougainville names the islands Les Grandes Cyclades.
1774 - British explorer Captain Cook charts the islands calling them the New Hebrides.
1800s - Thousands of ni-Vanuatu are kidnapped and forced to work on sugar and cotton plantations in Fiji and Queensland, Australia. The practice, known as "blackbirding", continues until the early 20th century.
1865 - European settlers begin to arrive on the islands.
1887 - Britain and France establish a Joint Naval Commission on the islands to protect their citizens.Anglo-French government
1906 - Britain and France make the country a Condominium, under joint administration. Each power is responsible for its own citizens but indigenous New Hebrideans are looked after by both countries. Non-New Hebrideans choose which country they want to be governed by.
John Frum cargo cult
Vanuatu is home to a ritualistic cult religion which developed when US troops arrived with plentiful military supplies, or cargo
1938 - Emergence of the John Frum cargo cult. Believers say goods owned by American and European visitors to the island are really meant for them but are intercepted by the foreigners. They believe that their ancestors will one day return with goods or "cargo" for them. The British jail the leaders of the movement and outlaw any mention of John Frum.
1956 - John Frum is recognised as a religion by the Anglo-French Condominium.
1963 - The NaGriamel political movement emerges on Espiritu Santo. Followers advocate the return of land to the ni-Vanuatu people and a return to traditional ways.
1971 - NaGriamel, anxious that more than 36% of the New Hebrides is now owned by foreign missionaries, planters and traders, petitions the UN to prevent further land sales to non-indigenous people
1977 - Representatives of the New Hebrides and the governments of Britain and France agree an independence plan for the islands in 1980 following a referendum and elections.
1978 - A measure of self-government introduced.Independence
1980 June - Jimmy Stevens, the leader of NaGriamel, declares Espiritu Santo independent of the rest of the New Hebrides renaming the island the Independent State of Vemarana. Papua New Guinea troops, backed by the Australians, put down the insurrection.
1980 30 July - New Hebrides attains independence within the Commonwealth under the name of Vanuatu. Father Walter Lini is first prime minister.
1996 - President Jean-Marie Leye and former deputy prime minister Barak Sope are briefly abducted by the Vanuatu Mobile Force as part of a long-standing pay dispute with the government.
Vanuatu's first ombudsman, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson, releases reports harshly critical of the government's financial dealings including the sale of ni-Vanuatu passports to foreign nationals.
2001 April - Edward Natapei becomes prime minister.
2002 July - Myriam Abel, Vanuatu's Public Health Director, becomes the first female Pacific Islander to be elected to the executive of the World Health Organisation.
2002 July - Barak Sope is sentenced to three years for abuse of office as a prime minister. He had forged government guarantees worth 46 million Australian dollars. He is pardoned and released after three months, reportedly suffering from diabetes.
2003 May - Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, impressed by Vanuatu's reforms, removes Vanuatu from a list of uncooperative tax havens.
2004 April-May - Alfred Masing Nalo elected as president but removed from office after Supreme Court invalidates result.
2004 May - Prime minister's coalition loses its majority, fresh elections called.
2004 July-August - Serge Vohor elected as prime minister; Kalkot Mataskelekele elected as president.
2004 November-December - Controversy over Prime Minister Vohor's attempt to forge diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The PM is ousted after a vote of no confidence and is replaced by Ham Lini.
2005 December - Thousands of people are evacuated as Mount Manaro, an active volcano on Ambae, begins to spew ash and steam.
2007 March - State of emergency declared after islanders from Ambrym and Tanna clash in the capital, reportedly over allegations of witchcraft. The violence leaves three people dead.
2008 September - Edward Natapei elected prime minister after his party wins the largest number of seats in parliament.
2009 September - Parliament chooses Iolu Abil to succeed Kalkot Mataskelekele as president.
2009 November - Prime Minister Edward Natapei is stripped of his position after missing three consecutive parliamentary sittings without submitting a written explanation. He continues in a caretaker capacity while a successor is decided.
2010 February - The Asian Development Bank says Vanuatu is one of the fastest growing economies in the Pacific, with growth of almost four percent last year in an unprecedented seventh consecutive year of growth.
2010 November - PM Edward Natapei ousted in no-confidence vote, replaced by Deputy PM Sato Kilman.
2011 June - Mr Natapei becomes caretaker premier after court rules appointment of Sato Kilman unconstitutional. A fresh election at the end of the month returns Mr Kilman to office.
2012 May - Diplomatic row with Australia over the arrest of Prime Minister Kilman's secretary on fraud charges. Vanuatu expels an Australian police liaison group in response.
2012 November - Following October's parliamentary election, Sato Kilman forms a new 11-party coalition that allows him to retain the premiership and keep his rival Edward Natapei from power.
2013 March - Prime Minister Sato Kilman resigns, is replaced by Moana Carcasses Kalosil.
2014 May - Veteran politician Joe Natuman is elected prime minister, after Moana Carcasses Kalosil loses a vote of confidence in parliament.