History of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the eastern part of the historic region of Bengal. The Bengalis regard the four centuries of rule by the Pala dynasty (8th to 12th century) as their greatest period. Under the Palas, Bengal was prosperous and politically powerful, a center of Buddhist learning and culture. In the 13th century Islam was introduced by Muslim invaders. After centuries of rule by independent kings, Bengal was conquered in 1576 by Akbar, the Mogul emperor of India. Mogul power declined in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the British and French vied for control of Bengal. British supremacy was assured in 1757 by Robert Clive, who captured French trading posts and defeated France's Bengal allies in the battle of Plassey.

During the 19th century, the British turned Bengal into a world center for the cultivation of jute and its manufacture into twine, bags, and other products.

In 1947, British India was given independence and partitioned, along religious lines, into two countriesIndia and the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. Eastern Bengallargely Muslimbecame East Pakistan; some 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of Indian territory separated it from largely Punjabi West Pakistan. From the beginning of Pakistan's independence, the Bengalis resented Punjabi dominance in the armed forces and government and the disproportionate share of development expenditures given to West Pakistan. By the mid-1960's, a movement for Bengali autonomy had developed. It was led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, head of East Pakistan's leading party, the Awami League.

In the 1970 general election, the Awami League won a majority in Pakistan's parliament, the first time East Pakistan had gained control of the federal government. The West Pakistani leaders, however, refused to convene parliament, precipitating a war of secession by the Awami League. India entered the conflict on the side of the Bengalis and destroyed West Pakistan's forces in eastern Bengal, making possible that region's independence. Mujibur Rahman became president of the new country.

Devastated by the war, Bangladesh required massive aid from other countries to survive. In 1972 it adopted its first constitution, and in 1973 it conducted its first parliamentary elections.

Economic development in the new country was hampered by growing lawlessness and widespread famine. Mujibur Rahman assumed dictatorial powers early in 1975. Later in the year he was killed in a military coup. For the next 15 years there were frequent coups, the last being staged by Hossain Mohammad Ershad in 1982. After free elections in 1991, Khaleda Zia, widow of an assassinated former president, became the country's first female prime minister.

In 1996 Mujibur Rahman's daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, was elected prime minister. In 1998, 15 former army officers were sentenced to death for the 1975 murders of her father and other family members.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Khaleda Zia, won parliamentary elections in 2001. Zia served as prime minister until 2006. President Iajudding Ahmed succeeded Zia as temporary head of government but was forced to resign in January, 2007, after months of vote fraud accusations. A military-backed caretaker government took control of the country. Ahmed remained as president until early 2009.