European exploration of the coast of present-day Liberia began in 1461 with the arrival of the Portuguese navigator Pedro de Sintra. He was followed by other Portuguese explorers, who named Cape Mesurado and other geographical features of the area, which became known as the Grain Coast.

By the early nineteenth century, anti-slavery sentiment was growing in the United States, and one proposed solution to the problem of accommodating freed slaves was resettlement in Africa. In 1818 representatives of the American Colonization Society, a private U.S. organization, made a trip to the Grain Coast to assess the area. Three years later the society acquired settlement rights for Cape Mesurado through agreements signed with local chieftains. These efforts were aided by the U.S. government under President James Monroe, after whom Monrovia was later named (its original name was Christopolis). The first settlers arrived in 1822, settling on Providence Island. In spite of the formal agreement, the settlers were attacked by local tribes but managed to survive.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Monrovia Cairo Rome Beijing
(Liberia) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 1,413,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1822 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $130 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $58 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $14 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals) $202 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 6 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Daily Observer Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 30,000 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1981 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

Under the leadership of another American, Jehudi Ashmun, Liberia's first governmental and economic institutions were formed, and additional settlements were begun in nearby coastal areas. Liberia's first governor was appointed in 1839, and the territory proclaimed its independence in 1847. A constitution based on that of the United States was adopted, and during the following decade the new

Monrovia was named after the fifth U.S. president James Monroe (1758–1831; president 1817–25). ()
nation was recognized by most of the world's major powers. A large loan from Britain, necessitated by the withdrawal of aid from American colonization societies following Liberian independence, plunged the new nation into debt later in the century. Unable to meet its obligations, the nation was forced to borrow yet more money; its foreign debt was not paid off until 1952. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, border disputes erupted with the French in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire and the British in Sierra Leone.

Early twentieth-century events in Liberia included the establishment of a rubber plantation near Monrovia by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1926 and, a few years later, the resignation of the national government following a scandal over the shipment of African laborers to Fernando Po (in present-day Equatorial Guinea). During World War II (1939–45), Liberia joined the Allies in declaring war on Germany and Japan. As the result of a defense agreement signed with the United States in 1942, an international airport and deepwater harbor were constructed in Monrovia by 1948. In 1964 the free port of Monrovia was placed for the first time under the jurisdiction of the Liberian government.

In spite of the economic progress spurred by Monrovia's growing importance as an international port city, Liberia fell prey to economic troubles in the 1960s and 1970s, as the world market for its major exports declined. The economic situation and continuing tensions between the coastal elite, mostly descended from ex-slaves, and the tribal population in the interior of the country, led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President William R. Tolbert in 1980 in a military coup led by Samuel K. Doe (1951–90), who ruled Liberia for ten years until civil war erupted in 1989 when rebels under the leadership of Charles Taylor invaded Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire.

President Doe, who had barricaded himself in the presidential mansion, was killed, together with many of his supporters, in 1990, after which Monrovia was torn between the remnants of Doe's army and breakaway rebel forces led by Prince Johnson, a former associate of Taylor. Taylor's forces ultimately seized control of about 90 percent of the country and stormed Monrovia in 1992, after which an international peacekeeping force known as ECOMOG (the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group) was stationed in the country. A series of temporary UN-sponsored peace agreements temporarily halted the fighting, and a permanent agreement was

A monument dedicated to the first settlers of 1822. ()
reached in 1996, followed by elections the following year, with Charles Taylor and the National Patriotic Party winning some 75 percent of the vote.

Since the area around the capital was the major contested territory during the war, it suffered the greatest damage—to infrastructure and industry. In the late 1990s, however, life in Monrovia was beginning to return to normal, although fears of future violence were raised when ECOMOG troops withdrew in early 1998. As many of the refugees who had fled to neighboring countries poured back into the country, both Liberians and the international community hoped that rebuilding efforts could be undertaken without further bloodshed and brutality.