A chronology of key events:
14th century AD - Samoans, Tongans and settlers from other Polynesian islands migrate to the islands
1568 and 1595 - Spaniard Alvaro Mendana de Neyra sights the islands of Nui and Niulakita on two separate expeditions.
1819 - A ship owned by British MP Edward Ellice visits Funafuta. The captain names the island Ellice Island. Later this name was applied to all nine atolls.
1850-75 - "Blackbirding" - the kidnapping of islanders for forced labour on plantations in Fiji and Queensland - and the introduction of European diseases reduces the population from 20,000 to 3,000. In 1863 Peruvian slave traders kidnap 400 islanders - nearly two-thirds of the population of the islands of Funafuti and Nukulaelae.
1877 - Britain sets up the Western Pacific High Commission with its headquarters in Fiji. The Ellice Islands and other island groups come under its jurisdiction.
1892 - Britain declares a joint protectorate over the Ellice Islands and the Gilbert Islands.
1916 -The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony is formed. Over the next 20 years other island groups, including the Line Islands and the Phoenix Islands, join the colony.
1974 - Ethnic tensions result in more than 90% of the mainly Polynesian Ellice Islanders voting for separation from the predominantly Micronesian Gilbert Islands.
1975 - Ellice Islands become a separate British dependency, under the pre-colonial name of Tuvalu meaning "eight standing together" which refers to the eight populated atolls. Toaripi Lauti is elected chief minister.
1976 - Formally separates from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.
1977 - First separate general election held.
1978 1 October - Tuvalu achieves independence. Toaripi Lauti is appointed prime minister.
1986 - Votes to remain an independent constitutional monarchy with the British monarch at its head.
1987 - Britain, New Zealand and Australia set up the Tuvalu Trust Fund to provide development aid. Contributions to the fund also come from South Korea and Japan.
1989 - UN lists Tuvalu as one of a number of island groups most likely to disappear beneath the sea in the 21st century because of global warming.
1991 - Government says it is preparing a compensation claim against the UK for the poor state of the country's finances at the time of independence.
1998 - Leases its "900" telephone lines to a foreign company which generates a substantial income.
2000 February - Signs an agreement to lease the country's national internet suffix '.tv' to a US company which generates enough funds for Tuvalu to apply to join the United Nations.
2000 March - Eighteen schoolgirls and their supervisor are killed in a fire in a school dormitory on Vaitupu island. It is Tuvalu's worst disaster since independence.
2000 - Admitted to the United Nations.
Sea level issue
2001 - New Zealand offers to resettle islanders threatened by rising sea-levels.
2001 March - Tuvalu says it will take legal action, along with Kiribati and the Maldives, against the US for its refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
2001 December - Australian government's overseas aid programme commissions a land and sea-level monitoring station in Tuvalu.
2006 August - Apisai Ielemai elected PM.
2007 June - Tuvalu envoy to the UN Afelee Pita addresses special session of UN Security Council devoted to the issue of climate change.
2009 January - Tuvalu applies for membership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which says it will consider the request.
2009 February - Taiwan says it wants to help Tuvalu deal with the effects of rising sea levels. Tuvalu is one of the few countries to recognise Taiwan.
2009 July - Tuvalu wants all its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.
2009 December - Tuvalu rejects Copenhagen climate pact as inadequate.
2010 September - Maatia Toafa elected PM.
2010 December - PM Maatia Toafa ousted by no-confidence vote, replaced by Willy Telavi.
2011 October - Government declares state of emergency over water shortages and asks for international help to replace broken desalination machinery and provide permanent water tanks.
2012 August - Under pressure from the US, Tuvalu agrees to de-register Iranian ships it had previously allowed to sail under its national flag. Iran had applied to register oil tankers in Tuvalu in a bid to circumvent an international embargo on Iranian oil shipments.