This chapter begins with a historical sketch of the colonial era. 1 Subsequent sections focus on key factors and events in Costa Rican democratization, including important economic and social forces driving change, the development of elite politics, evolution of electoral institutions and processes, and popular participation in politics. This discussion is divided into three major periods: 1821–1905, 1906–1945, and 1946 to the present. This division emphasizes the dramatic transformation of Costa Rican politics from its turbulently undemocratic early national life to its current system of institutionalized constitutional rule consolidated after the 1948 civil war. During the nineteenth century, elite rule, militarism, dictatorship, and instability predominated, with occasional exceptions that suggested democratic potential. After 1906 democratization developed in several stages broken by setbacks and considerable conflict. The 1948 civil war and its aftermath gave birth to the modern democratic regime.