Kuala Lumpur had its start as a tin mining town when the Malay Chief ordered a new mine opened at its location in 1857. The original name, Pengkalan Lumpur, literally translated to "bundle of mud", a testament to the site's low laying position between two equally muddy rivers. Later the town's name was changed to Kuala Lumpur or, "muddy confluence" - apparently the environment still hadn't changed much for the better.
The small mining town eventually developed into a more lucrative trading post, but it was constantly plagued by disease, fires, and floods, slowing its progress some. The state's capital was moved to the city in 1880 regardless of this, taking advantage of the strategic rivers and mines. However, a year later a fire engulfed the town, quickly followed by a massive flood. The two natural disasters destroyed virtually every building in the city, mostly because they were made of wood and thatch - both of which either quickly burn or can easily be mildewed or swept away by raging waters. Leaders of the city mandated that all new constructions be fashioned of brick and tile. After the city rebuilt itself, Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States in 1896.
The 1900's brought more problems to Kuala Lumpur - it was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, tin collapsed as a commodity, and it had to deal with a guerrilla war fought between the British rulers and communist nationals. However, in 1963 Malaysia gained its independence from Britain, and made Kuala Lumpur its new capital.
The city is now the largest in Malaysia and has one of the most iconographic modern skylines. At one point it also boasted the world's tallest skyscrapers, the Petronas Twin Towers, before they were overtaken by Taipei 101 in 2004. Today the city is an economic and cultural hub of the country, with a booming industrial and tourist sector.