The first inhabitants of Gabon were probably pygmies. About 1000 A.D., various Bantu peoples migrated into the region from the south. The Portuguese explored Gabon's coast in the 15th century. The English, Dutch, and French followed. Trading posts were established by various European nations, and a prosperous slave trade was developed. Gabon came under French domination during the 19th century and was made part of the French Congo. In 1910 it became a colony within French Equatorial Africa.

In 1957 Gabon gained internal autonomy, and in 1958 it joined the French Community. It became independent in 1960, retaining close ties with France. Hostility between the major political parties caused much instability during the early 1960's. In 1967 Albert-Bernard Bongo (who later changed his name to Omar Bongo) became president, and in 1968 he created a dictatorial one-party state. Rapid economic development during the 1970's and 1980's made Gabon one of Africa's most prosperous nations. In 1990, following democratic reforms, Bongo's party won Gabon's first multiparty legislative elections. In 1993, Bongo won Gabon's first multiparty presidential election. He also won the presidential elections in 1998 and 2005.