Nelson Mandela timeline:
1918: Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela is born in the village of Mvezo, in the Transkei on 18 July. His father, a member of the Thembu clan, has three other wives in addition to Rolihlahla’s mother, and 12 other sons and daughters.
1925: Mandela becomes the first member of his immediate family to go to school. On his first day at primary school, his schoolmistress gives him the name “Nelson”.
1927: Mandela’s father dies of tuberculosis. Jongintaba Dalindyebo, paramount chief of the Thembu, becomes his guardian.
1934-7: Attends Clarkebury Boarding Institute and undergoes tribal initiation.
1937-8: Attends Healdtown, a Wesleyan college at Fort Beaufort, graduating in 1938.
1939-40: Enrols at the University of Fort Hare – but is suspended as a result of disruptive activities on the students’ representative council. Meets Oliver Tambo.
1941: Flees to Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage. Works as a guard at Crown Mines; meets Walter Sisulu, who finds him work as a law clerk. Studies for a law degree by correspondence at the University of South Africa, completing it in 1942.
1943: Joins the African National Congress (ANC). Enrols for LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand.
1944: Forms the ANC Youth League, together with others including Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. Marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase, with whom he will have two sons and two daughters.
1948: National Party comes to power, and begins to implement its programme of apartheid. Mandela elected national secretary of ANC Youth League.
1950: Population Registration Act and Group Areas Act passed, segregating blacks and whites. South African Communist Party is banned. In response, Mandela and others plan an ANC campaign of civil disobedience: the Defiance Campaign.
1952: Mandela qualifies as attorney and, with Tambo, starts a law practice in Johannesburg. Defiance Campaign launched nationally. Mandela given suspended jail sentence under Suppression of Communism Act.
1956-61: The Treason Trial, Mandela and 155 others are arrested and charged with treason. The charges are eventually dropped, but only after a four-year trial.
1957: Mandela divorces his first wife.
1958: Mandela marries Winnie Madikizela, a social worker with whom he will have two daughters. Promotion of Black Self-Government Act establishes a system of black homelands.
1960: On 21 March, 69 people, many of them women or children, are killed by security forces in the Sharpeville Massacre. Subsequently, amid fears of black reprisals, the ANC is banned. The government imposes a state of emergency.
1961: Mandela forms Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, which includes sabotage (but not violence against people) among the tactics that it considers legitimate. Goes into hiding.
1962: Mandela goes abroad to gather support and to undergo military training. Arrested on his return and charged with leaving the country illegally. Sentenced to five years in jail.
1963-4: The Rivonia trial. Mandela and nine other ANC leaders are charged with sabotage and treason. All but one are sentenced to life imprisonment and taken to Robben Island.
1964: South Africa is barred from Tokyo Olympic Games.
1969: Mandela’s son Thembi is killed in a car crash. He is not allowed to attend his funeral.
1976: More than 600 people, mainly students, killed during protests at Soweto and Sharpeville.
1977: Steve Biko, leader of the 1976 protests, is killed in police custody.
1982: Mandela, Sisulu and others are transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. Mandela rejects President PW Botha’s offer to release him if he renounces violence.
1984: Continuing revolts in townships lead to declaration of a state of emergency.
1985: President PW Botha again offers to release Mandela, subject to his renouncing the armed struggle and promising to do nothing that puts him in conflict with South African law. Via his daughter Zindzi, Mandela rejects the offer.
1988: Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute Concert at Wembley is watched by 600 million people in 67 countries, increasing pressure on the South African government.
1989: FW de Klerk replaces Botha as president.
1990: The ban on the ANC is lifted. On 11 February, Mandela is released. The ANC and the ruling National Party begin talks on forming a multi-racial government. Mandela is elected ANC deputy president.
1991: Mandela is elected president of the ANC at the movement’s first national conference. Winnie Mandela is convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault in connection with the death of 14-year-old Stompie Moeketsi in 1989.
1993: Mandela is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with President de Klerk. Chris Hani, leader of the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe wing, is assassinated. Mandela appeals for calm.
1994: South Africa’s first fully democratic election begins on 27 April. By 9 May, Nelson Mandela is elected President. On 10 May, Mandela is inaugurated as president.
1995: Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up. South Africa hosts the rugby World Cup; Mandela attends the final wearing a Springbok shirt, inspiring both a South African victory and a wave of national reconciliation.
1996: Divorces Winnie Mandela.
1998: Marries (on his 80th birthday) Graça Machel, widow of former Mozambican president Samora Machel.
1999: Retires as President, and is succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.
2001: Diagnosed with prostate cancer and begins a course of radiotherapy.
2003: Gives his support to the 46664 AIDS fundraising campaign (named after his old prison number).
2004: Announces his retirement from public life.
2005: Mandela announces that his son, Makgatho, has died of an Aids-related illness. He says: “Let us give publicity to HIV/Aids and not hide it.”
2008: On 27 June, politicians and stars join crowds in London’s Hyde Park to celebrate his impending 90th birthday. In a speech to mark his birthday, Mandela calls on the world’s rich to “end poverty”.