The earliest known inhabitants of Wales were a dark-haired people who migrated from the European continent during the Stone Age. Wales was conquered by the Britons, a Celtic people, about 600 B.C. They called their country Cymru, derived from a word meaning "fellow countrymen." Cymru was occupied, but not subdued, by the Romans in their conquest of Britain in the first century A.D. When the Romans withdrew in the fifth century Britain was invaded by Germanic peoples: the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Anglo-Saxons, who called the western area Wealas, "land of the foreigners," tried unsuccessfully to control it.

Important dates in Wales
A.D. 78 Roman armies completed their conquest of Wales.
c. 790 King Offa, ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, built a dike, setting the boundary between England and Wales.
1071 William the Conqueror divided Wales into three earldoms and encouraged the earls’ seizure of the borderland, called the March.
1282 English troops killed Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales.
1301 Edward I, conqueror of Wales, gave the title Prince of Wales to his son.
1400-1410 Owen Glendower rebelled against English rule.
1485 Henry Tudor, with Welsh military support, defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and became King Henry VII of England.
1536 Henry VIII united Wales with England.
1588 The first Welsh translation of the complete Bible appeared.
1811 Welsh Calvinistic Methodists began ordaining ministers.
1831 A riot erupted in Merthyr Tydfil, as protesters called for parliamentary reforms and increased wages.
1839 Troops fired on Chartist marchers led by John Frost in Newport, killing 20.
1898 The South Wales Miners' Federation was founded.
1910 Striking coal miners in the Rhondda District erupted into violence in the Tonypandy Riots.
1916-1922 David Lloyd George was the United Kingdom's first Welsh-born prime minister.
1920 The Church of England in Wales was disestablished (removed from official status).
1925 Nationalist leaders founded the party now called Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales).
1955 The United Kingdom recognized Cardiff as the capital of Wales.
1962 Welsh Language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, was formed to help preserve the Welsh language.
1982 S4C, a Welsh language television channel, began transmitting.
1999 The United Kingdom government established the National Assembly for Wales to take over responsibility for internal Welsh affairs.

After the Norman Conquest, 1066–71, Norman barons established large estates and fortresses along the Welsh border and gradually expanded into south and central Wales. In the 13th century, Llewelyn the Great, from north Wales, won control over most of the country. By recognizing Henry III of England as his overlord, Llewelyn became Prince of Wales. Following a dispute, Llewelyn's domain was conquered by Edward I. Edward made Wales an English principality in 1284, and in 1301 designated his son Prince of Wales—a title since borne by each male heir apparent to the English throne.

The Tudor family of Wales came to the English throne in 1485, and Wales was incorporated with England under a single government by Henry VIII in 1536. The Welsh, however, retained a strong sense of their own identity.

Beginning in the 1880's, the Liberal party, and later the Labour party, promised home rule for Wales, but no action was taken. Nationalist sentiment grew after World War II, and in the late 1960's there was occasional violence by militant nationalists. In 1975, the British government announced plans to give Wales limited home rule, including an elected assembly. In a 1979 referendum, however, the Welsh turned down the proposal. In 1997, there was another referendum, this one on the creation of the National Assembly for Wales. It passed narrowly. The new body was granted limited powers, mainly managing the British budget for Wales. In 1999, Wales elected its first National Assembly and Labour narrowly won the most seats.