In the 14th century a Lao warlord, Fa Ngum, founded the Kingdom of Lane Xang which literally means ‘Land of a Million Elephants’ and established the capital at what is now Luang Prabang. In the 18th century Lane Xang entered a period of decline caused by dynastic struggle and conflicts with Burma, Siam (now Thailand), Vietnam, and the Khmer kingdom. By the 19th century the Siamese established power over much of what is now Laos and was divided into three principalities: Luang Prabang Vientiane and Champassak. Late in the century the French succeeded the Siamese and integrated all of Laos into the French empire under direct rule except for Luang Prabang which was ruled as a protectorate. The Franco-Siamese treaty of 1907 defined the present Laotian boundary with Thailand.
Laos achieved independence from French rule in 1954. Peace was short-lived, however, as the Americans began bombing eastern Laos in 1964 in a bid to target a section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that passed through Laotian territory. Fighting between the Communist Pathet Laos and royalist government in Vientiane ensued, ending with a ceasefire in 1973. In December 1975 the Pathet Laos took control in Vientiane, founding the current Laos People’s Democratic Republic.