After Jamestown, Virginia was established in 1607, Captain Christopher Newport led explorers northwest up the James River into an area that was inhabited by Powhatan Native Americans. Soon, the community grew into a bustling trading post for furs, hides and tobacco. In 1737, founder William Byrd II  named the city "Richmond" after the English town of Richmond near London, because the view of the James River was strikingly similar to the view of the River Thames from Richmond Hill in England.

Despite the fact that it served as host to three historic political conventions in the pre-Revolutionary War years, including the one at which Patrick Henry closed his impassioned speech with the memorable "Give me liberty or give me death," the town grew very slowly throughout most of the rest of the eighteenth century, even after it was named the capital of Virginia in 1779. Following the Revolutionary War, however, Richmond entered an era of rapid growth.

By the time of the Civil War, Richmond was one of the major commercial and industrial centers of the country. It prospered as a port city. In addition, America's first iron and brick supplies were manufactured in Richmond, and the first-discovered coal veins in America were mined in neighboring Chesterfield County. Tobacco processing and flour milling also emerged as regional industrial powers. 

After Reconstruction, Richmond’s population had reached over 60,000, and the invention of the first electrically powered trolley system caused inner city neighborhoods as well as streetcar suburbs to grow rapidly. By the beginning of the 20th century, Richmond became the headquarters of the Fifth District of the Federal Reserve Bank, and by the end of World War I, Philip Morris was established in the city. The booming Tobacco industry helped Richmond quickly recover from the Great Depression.

Both world wars sparked industrial expansion in Richmond, leading to a diversification that has made the area prosperous for many years. The 1980s were marked by concerted efforts to foster cooperation and growth to benefit the entire metropolitan area. Those efforts are felt today, as Richmond is not only a manufacturing center of note, but also a hub for research, federal and state government, banking, transportation, trade, and health care. It is a city that is committed to preserving the best of its nearly 400-year past while carefully crafting a future that includes continued economic development. 

Greater Richmond includes the City of Richmond and Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico counties. The Richmond MSA includes these localities plus the cities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Hopewell and the counties of Amelia, Caroline, Charles City, Dinwiddie, Goochland, King William, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George, and Sussex.