The only documented inhabitants of Uruguay before European colonization of the area were the Charrua, a small tribe driven south by the Guaraní of Paraguay. There have also been identified examples of ancient rock art, at locations such as Chamangá, and elsewhere.
The Spanish arrived in the territory of present-day Uruguay in 1516, but the people's fierceresistance to conquest, combined with the absence of gold and silver, limited settlement in the region during the 16th and 17th centuries. Uruguay became a zone of contention between the Spanish and the Portuguese empires. In 1603 the Spanish began to introduce cattle, which became a source of wealth in the region. The first permanent settlement on the territory of present-day Uruguay was founded bythe Spanish in 1624 at Soriano on the Río Negro. In 1669-71, the Portuguese built a fort at Colonia del Sacramento. Spanish colonization increased as Spain sought to limit Portugal's expansion of Brazil's frontiers.
Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold; its natural harbor soon developed into a commercial center competing with Argentina'scapital, Buenos Aires. Uruguay's early 19th century history was shaped by ongoing fights between the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and colonial forces for dominance in the Argentina-Brazil-Uruguay region. In 1806 and 1807, the British army attempted to seize Buenos Aires as part of their War with Spain. As a result, at the beginning of 1807, Montevideo was occupied by a 10,000-strong British force whoheld it until the middle of the year when they left to attack Buenos Aires.
 Struggle for independence
José Gervasio Artigas, as depicted by Juan Manuel Blanes.
In 1811, José Gervasio Artigas, who became Uruguay's national hero, launched a successful revolt against Spain, defeating Spanish forces on May 18 in the Battle of Las Piedras. In 1814 he formed the Liga Federal (FederalLeague) of which he was declared Protector.
The steady growth of influence and prestige of the Federal League frightened the Portuguese government, which did not want the League's republicanism to spread to the adjoining Portuguese colony of Brazil. In August, 1816 forces from Brazil invaded the Eastern Province (with Buenos Aires's tacit complicity), with the intention of destroying the protectorand his revolution. The Portuguese forces, thanks to their numerical and material superiority, occupied Montevideo on January 20, 1817, and finally after struggling for three years in the countryside, defeated Artigas in the Battle of Tacuarembó. In 1821, the Eastern Province of the Río de la Plata (present-day Uruguay), was annexed by Brazil under the name of Província Cisplatina. In response, theThirty-Three Orientals led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja declared independence on August 25, 1825 supported by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, present-day Argentina.
This led to the 500-day Argentina-Brazil War. Neither side gained the upper hand, and in 1828 the Treaty of Montevideo, fostered by the United Kingdom, gave birth to Uruguay as an independent state. The nation's firstconstitution was adopted on July 18, 1830. For the remainder of the 19th century, under a series of elected and appointed presidents, Uruguay saw interventions by — and conflicts with — neighboring states, political and economic fluctuations, and large inflows of immigrants, mostly from Europe.
 The "Guerra Grande" 1839-1852
Further information: Uruguayan Civil War
Manuel Oribe.Fructuoso Rivera.
The political scene in Uruguay became split between two parties, the conservative Blancos ("Whites") and the liberal Colorados ("Reds"). The Colorados were led by Fructuoso Rivera and represented the business interests of Montevideo; the Blancos were headed by Manuel Oribe, who looked after the agricultural interests of the countryside and promoted protectionism. The two groups...