Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians (Mapuche) inhabited central and southern Chile. The Mapuche were also one of the last independent American indigenous groups, that were not fully absorbed into Spanish-speaking rule until after Chile's independence. Although Chile declared independence in 1810 (amid the Napoleonic wars that left Spain without a functioning central government for a couple of years), decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile invaded parts of Peru and Bolivia and kept its presence northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Araucanians were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, until the 1970s, things took a turn for the worse in that decade. When popular communist/democratic socialist Salvador Allende won the free and fair 1970 elections, he ran on a platform of social justice and bridging the (already then) huge divide between a wealthy few and the rest of the population. However, although some center-right (most notably the Chilean Christian Democrats) parties supported or at least didn't outright attack his government, he had to deal with domestic opposition from some sectors of society as well as the military but also a difficult international situation with the US not tolerating any kind of "communist" in their "back yard". In a coup that was led by the head of the army (that Allende had picked himself, believing him to be loyal if not to himself than at least to the constitution) Augusto Pinochet on September 11th 1973, the Allende government was overthrown and Allende died of a gunshot, now believed to be shot by himself in suicidal intent. As a result of that coup Chile endured the 17-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) that left around 3,000 people, mostly leftists and socialist sympathizers, dead or disappeared. While it is not entirely clear to what extent the US or the CIA was involved in the coup that brought Pinochet to power, it is now widely believed, that Nixon and his foreign policy advisor Henry Kissinger where at least not unhappy with the outcome and the US , as well as some conservative leaders in Europe were among the biggest supporters of Pinochet's regime throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Pinochet was widely reviled worldwide for his methods, however, a Center-Left Chilean administration came into power after he stepped down when he lost a national referendum. Although Pinochet's neo-liberal (meaning: deregulation and privatization above all else) policies did grow the economy, they immensely hurt the poorer parts of the population and hugely increased the gap between rich and poor, a problem that - much like Pinochet's tweaks to the constitution, that were designed to ensure him getting away unpunished (which he more or less did) and conservatives always having a de facto veto on some issues - still plague the country today. The new government of Patricio Aylwin thought it sensible to maintain free market policies that present-day Chile still harbors to some extent. Despite enjoying a comparatively higher GDP and more robust economy compared to most other countries of Latin America, Chile currently has one of the most uneven distributions of wealth in the world, ahead only of Brazil in the Latin American region and even lagging behind most developing sub-Saharan African nations. Chile's top 10 richest percentile possesses almost 42 percent of the country's total wealth. In relation to income distribution, some 6.2% of the country populates the upper economic income bracket, 19% the middle bracket, 24% the lower middle, 38% the lower bracket, and 13% the extreme poor. These extreme divisions have caused a lot of uproar in recent years and in the beginning 2010s, there was a youth and student protest movement to draw attention to those issues. Though some policies to mitigate the most extreme disparities have been proposed or passed, their effects seem to be minuscule as of early 2015.
Chile is a founding member of both United Nations and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and is also now in the OECD, the group of the "most developed" countries by current international standards, becoming the first country in South America with that honor.
Argentina's and Chile's claims to Antarctica overlap. Chile also voices a claim to a 1.25 million square kilometer portion of Antarctica, but given the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no country's territorial claims to Antarctica are ever recognized or permitted to be exercised at any time. However, much like Argentina, some Chileans take their claims in Antarctica and surrounding islands seriously indeed.