Panama, situated in Central America, was first discovered and explored by the Spanish in the 16th century along with the rest of the region but people have been living in the area for approximately 12,000 years according to the archaeological record. On landing in the area, the Spanish encountered the native tribes in the area which were mainly the Cuevas and Cocole tribes but they were easily overpowered by the superior weaponry of the Spanish as well as them introducing European disease which their immune systems were unable to deal with. The most famous explorer to appear in Panama in this time was Christopher Columbus himself.
However, as a country it only remained under the control of the Spanish until 1821 when instead they formed a union with Colombia which borders them on the south of the country, Venezuela and Ecuador. Prior to this union being created Panama as a country was going backwards compared to the rush in development immediately prior to the Spanish landing. This development was due to it becoming an important staging post for trade with the ability to transfer onto an entirely new ocean but with this came problems in the form of pirates who could see easy money being made. This threat of piracy resulted in companies deciding to travel the long road to get to the other ocean rather than this short road. With lower income appearing the Spanish appeared to be quite happy to lose Panama to this union.
The union itself did not last too long with it disbanding as soon as 1830 when Ecuador and Venezuela went their own ways. Panama stayed with Colombia in their own union until they decided to become independent in 1903 due to support from the United States who in turn benefited from this support greatly.
Perhaps the most famous part of Panama was finished being created in 1914 when the Panama Canal was formally opened. It was first promoted as an idea in the 1880s when Colombia formed an agreement with France for it to be built however it was not actually started until after 1903 when Panama became fully independent and by this time it was build with the help of the United States. It is now one of the busiest shipping areas in the entire world allowing ships to move from the Pacific towards the Atlantic saving a great deal of time.
After independence Panama found itself as a democracy until the 1950s and the appearance of a military junta which ran the country until the United States invaded in 1989 when they decided to regain control of the Panama Canal due to pressures and threats on the world trade. It was also used in order to reinstall a democratic government in Panama replacing the military and their rulers.
Since 1989 Panama has become a more stable country with an elected President and has seen an increase once again in its economy and has maintained its role as a main player in the trade network that expands around the world.