'For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.'
Mandela starts primary school near Qunu in South Africa's Eastern Cape. He had been born Rolihlahla Mandela on 18 July 1918 some 20km away in Mvezo. The first of his family to go to school, he is given the English forename of 'Nelson' by his teacher. In later years he becomes widely known by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba.
Attends Fort Hare University College, where he befriends Oliver Tambo. Both are expelled after taking part in a student boycott. Mandela later completes his degree through the University of South Africa.
Joins the African National Congress (ANC) which campaigned for equality in South Africa – especially after the 1948 introduction of apartheid, the system which institutionalised racial segregation. Alongside Tambo and Walter Sisulu, he helps found the ANC Youth League – becoming its president six years later.
Opens South Africa's first black law firm with Oliver Tambo. Leads the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws, the ANC and South African Indian Congress's non-violent resistance to discriminatory laws. Thousands are arrested for 'crimes' such as refusing to carry passes, violating the curfew on blacks or using 'white-only' public facilities.
ANC initiates the Congress of the People; 'The People Shall Govern!' proclaims its Freedom Charter. Mandela and 155 others are put on trial for treason. The main trial lasts until 1961. The defendants are found not guilty.
Mandela and his wife of 14 years, Evelyn, divorce. He marries Winnie Madikizela who would become a prominent but controversial ANC activist in the subsequent decades.
The Sharpeville massacre on 21 March sees police open fire on anti-apartheid protestors, killing 69 – many shot in the back. After the government imposes a state of emergency, the ANC is banned and Mandela is among thousands arrested.
Umkhonto we Sizwe is formed to fight for freedom, and becomes the ANC's armed wing. Mandela would explain, 'it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force.'
Mandela sentenced to five years hard labour for inciting workers to strike and travelling abroad without valid documents.
Start of Rivonia trial sees ANC leaders accused of sabotage, with Mandela sentenced to life the following year. He speaks from the dock: 'This is the struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.'
Mandela begins his life sentence in Robben Island prison. Kept in a small, damp cell and forced to break rocks in a quarry, he is initially limited to one visit and one letter every six months.
Soweto school students protesting at being taught in Afrikaans are shot by heavily armed police, with many killed. The resulting uprising spreads across the country, continuing into the following year, while sympathy bolsters international anti-apartheid campaigns.
Jerry Dammers' song 'Free Nelson Mandela' becomes a pop anthem around the world, raising awareness. Two years earlier, Mandela had been abruptly moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor maximum security prison.
A State of Emergency is declared by the South African government in response to rising unrest after an ANC call to 'make the country ungovernable'. International sanctions campaigns continue to add to the pressure on the apartheid regime.
Wembley Stadium hosts the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert, broadcast to 67 countries. Dank conditions in Mandela's cell result in tuberculosis and he is moved to Victor Verster Prison.
New South African president FW de Klerk realises apartheid is unsustainable. 'A man we can do business with,' says Mandela after their first meeting. The president unbans the ANC and 33 other organisations a few months later.
The world watches on live TV as Mandela is released from prison after more than 27 years. 'I stand here before you,' he says, 'not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.'
Mandela and de Klerk share the Nobel Peace Prize. Accepting the award, Mandela pledges: 'We will do what we can to contribute to the renewal of our world.'
Free elections see Mandela become the first black president of South Africa. He focuses on national reconciliation to transform it into the 'Rainbow Nation', famously bridging divides the next year by presenting the rugby World Cup wearing a Springbok shirt. His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is published.
Mandela retires from the presidency, having married humanitarian activist Graça Machel the year before. He remains a global figure, devoting much time to Aids awareness – including a series of concerts named after his prison number, 46664.
Mandela hosts a concert in London's Hyde Park for his 90th birthday. He says, 'Our work is far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness including Aids, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all.'
Nelson Mandela dies on 5 December and is buried in his childhood home of Qunu.