The rudimentary structures of a multiethnic state existed before the founding of the Kingdom of Lan Xang in the thirteenth century. These prethirteenth-century structures consisted of small confederative communities in river valleys and among the mountain peoples, who found security away from the well-traveled rivers and overland tracks where the institutions and customs of the Laotian people were gradually forged in contact with other peoples of the region
The south of Laos boasts one of the world’s largest deposits of dinosaur bones. During the 1930s French geologist Josue Heilman Hoffet discovered significant deposits of fossilised bipedal and quadropedal herbivores, freshwater molluscs, crocodiles and tortoises in the region of Ban Tangvai, 120 kilometres east of Savannakhet
The Mon-Khmer speaking peoples are believed to have migrated into mainland South East Asia from either south west China or north east India as early as 2000 BCE. At the start of the first millennium CE, both India and China began to establish trading contacts throughout the wider region; Indian influence was particularly strong in the Mekong basin area, and over successive centuries, as the Mon-Khmer peoples began to develop their own political institutions, Indian ideas and practices regarding kingship, law, religion, art, architecture, literature, language and writing were progressively assimilated.
During the late 14th century Muang Xiang Dong Xiang Thong (modern Luang Prabang) emerged from Khmer suzerainty to become the kingdom of Lane Xang Hom Khao ('One Million Elephants under a White Parasol').
Following the division of Lane Xang into the three rival kingdoms of Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Champassak, Siamese influence in the region grew steadily, and by the mid 18th century Ayutthaya was exacting tribute from all three. Notwithstanding the destruction of Ayutthaya by Burmese troops in 1767 (part of a campaign in which Luang Prabang was occupied for seven years by the Burmese),
The colonial era began in the 1859 with the French conquest of Sai Gon. In 1862 Viet King Tu ?uc was forced to cede control of the south, which became the Protectorate of 'Cochinchina’. Two years later King Norodom agreed to the establishment of the Protectorate of Cambodia, which was upgraded 20 years later to the status of a colony. By the late 1880s Protectorates of 'Annam' (central Viet Nam) and 'Tonkin' (north Viet Nam) had also been created.
The Franco-Lao Treaty of 1953 created a sovereign, independent Laos, but failed to settle the issue of who would rule the country. Consequently the years which followed were marked by increasingly bitter rivalry between the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right wing under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing, Vietnamese-backed Lao Patriotic Front (now known under the name Pathet Lao) under Prince Souphannouvong and future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane.