Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, founded in the 15th century by Fa Ngum, himself descended from a long line of Lao kings, tracking back to Khoun Boulom. Lan-Xang prospered until the 18th century, when the kingdom was divided into three principalities, which eventually came under Siamese suzerainty.
- In the 19th century, Luang Prabang was incorporated into the 'Protectorate' of French Indochina, and shortly thereafter, the Kingdom of Champasak and the territory of Vientiane were also added to the protectorate. Under the French, Vientiane once again became the capital of a unified Lao state.
- Following a brief Japanese occupation during World War II, the country declared its independence in 1945, but the French under Charles de Gaulle re-asserted their control and only in 1950 was Laos granted semi-autonomy as an "associated state" within the French Union.
- Moreover, the French remained in de facto control until 1954, when Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy. Under a special exemption to the Geneva Convention, a French military training mission continued to support the Royal Laos Army. In 1955, the U.S. Department of Defense created a special Programs Evaluation Office to replace French support of the Royal Lao Army against the communist Pathet Lao as part of the U.S. containment policy.
- Laos was dragged into the Vietnam War and the eastern parts of the country were invaded and occupied by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), which used Laotian territory as a staging ground and supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United StatesLaos and supported a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The result of these actions were a series of coups d'état and, ultimately, the Laotian Civil War between the Royal Laotian government and the communist Pathet Lao.
- In the Civil War the NVA, with its heavy artillery and tanks, was the real power behind the Pathet Lao insurgency. In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack against the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing and leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand. The attack resulted in many lost lives. Massive aerial bombardment was carried out by the United States. The Guardian reported that Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260m "bombies" that rained down, particularly on Xieng Khouang province, 80m failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy. It holds the dubious distinction of being the most bombed country in the world.
- Pha That Luang in Vientiane, the national symbol of Laos. In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao, backed by the Soviet Union and the North Vietnamese Army, overthrew the royalist government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on 2 December 1975. He later died in captivity.
- After taking control of the country, Pathet Lao's government renamed the country as the "Lao People's Democratic Republic" and signed agreements giving Vietnam the right to station armed forces and to appoint advisers to assist in overseeing the country. Laos was ordered in the late 1970s by Vietnam to end relations with the People's Republic of China which cut the country off from trade with any country but Vietnam. Control by Vietnam and socialisation were slowly replaced by a relaxation of economic restrictions in the 1980s and admission into ASEAN in 1997.
- In 2005, the United States established Normal Trade Relations with Laos, ending a protracted period of punitive import taxes
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