A chronology of key events:
14th century - Conversion of Malays to Islam begins.
1826 - British settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore combine to form the Colony of Straits Settlements, from where the British extend their influence by establishing protectorates over the Malay sultanates of the peninsula.
1942-45 - Japanese occupation.
1948-60 - State of emergency to counter local communist insurgency.
1957 - Federation of Malaya becomes independent from Britain with Tunku Abdul Rahman as prime minister.
1963 - British colonies of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore join Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia.
1965 - Singapore withdraws from Malaysia, which is reduced to 13 states; communist insurgency begins in Sarawak.
Positive discrimination for Malays
1971 - Government introduces minimum quotas for Malays in business, education and the civil service.
1981 - Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister.
1989-90 - Local communist insurgents sign peace accord with government.
1998 - Mahathir Mohamad sacks his deputy and presumed successor, Anwar Ibrahim, on charges of sexual misconduct, against the background of differences between the two men over economic policy.
2000 - Ibrahim is found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to nine years in prison. This is added to the six-year jail sentence he was given in 1999 after being found guilty of corruption following a controversial trial.
2001 - Dozens arrested during worst ethnic clashes in decades between Malays and ethnic Indians.
Mahathir bows out
2003 October - Abdullah Ahmad Badawi takes over as prime minister as Mahathir Mohamad steps down after 22 years in office.
2004 - Anwar Ibrahim freed after court overturns his sodomy conviction.
2006 - Malaysia shelves construction of controversial bridge to Singapore.
2009 - Badawi steps down as prime minister and is replaced by his deputy, Najib Abdul Razak.
2014 March - Government and Malaysia Airlines face international criticism over handling of Flight MH370, which goes missing en route to China in unexplained circumstances.
2014 July - Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashes in eastern Ukraine after being shot down by Russian-backed separatists, with the loss of all 298 people on board.
2015 February - Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is jailed for five years after failing to win an appeal against a sodomy conviction.
2015 June - The Wall Street Journal alleges that close to $700m (£490m) from the sovereign wealth fund 1MDB was deposited in Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank account.
2016 November - Thousands of anti-government protesters take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib over his alleged links to a corruption scandal.
2017 February - Kim Jong-nam, the estranged brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is killed with a nerve agent at a Malaysian airport.
2018 May - Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister again as head of an four-party coalition, defeating his erstwhile protege Najib Razak.
2020 March - Muhyiddin Yassin forms government with the UMNO, the former party of Najib Razak, after the surprise collapse of Mahathir Mohamad's coalition.