Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river. Peru has a population of 33 million, and its capital and largest city is Lima. At 1.28 million km2 (0.5 million mi2), Peru is the 19th largest country in the world, and the third largest in South America.
Peruvian territory was home to several ancient cultures. Ranging from the Norte Chico civilization starting in 3500 BCE, the oldest civilization in the Americas and one of the five cradles of civilization, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in the pre-Columbian Americas, the territory now including Peru has one of the longest histories of civilization of any country, tracing its heritage back to the 10th millennia BCE.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a viceroyalty that encompassed most of its South American territories, with its capital in Lima. Higher education started in the Americas with the official establishment of the National University of San Marcos in Lima in 1551. Peru formally proclaimed independence in 1821, and following the foreign military campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar, and the decisive battle of Ayacucho, Peru completed its independence in 1824. In the ensuing years, the country enjoyed relative economic and political stability, which ended shortly before the War of the Pacific (1879–1884) with Chile. Throughout the 20th century, Peru endured armed territorial disputes, coups, social unrest, and internal conflicts, as well as periods of stability and economic upswing. In the 1990s, the country implemented a neoliberal economic model which is still in use to this day. Since then, Peru has experienced constant economic growth and a decrease in inequality.