The name "Kuala Lumpur" which in the Malay language means "Muddy Confluence" or "Muddy Estuary", reflects the city's humble reverine beginnings. In the 1850s the Malay Chieftain of the coastal port of Klang and member of the Selangor Royal Family, Raja Abdullah, sent a group of 87 Chinese miners together with his officials to prospect for tin in the upper Klang valley of Selangor state. At that time, tin was in huge demand with the full swing of the industrial revolution in Europe and America, which needed the durable, lightweight rust-resistant metal to help fuel their industrial expansions. These miners made a settlement camp where the Klang and Gombak rivers flow quietly together forming a muddy but tin-rich delta. More tin was found in the surrounding areas and the camp immediately became a settlement, which quickly grew into a town, and expanded rapidly to become a thriving city. This modern but multi-cultural metropolis is now also simply called "KL". The "Muddy Confluence" is still there in the middle of the city, at the location of the Jamek Mosque.
Kuala Lumpur had its share of setbacks before it evolved into one of Asia’s richest capitals. For instance, many of the original miners died of malaria and, as other prospectors filtered in, the town was overrun by rampant lawlessness. When chaos escalated in 1868, the third "Kapitan Cina," or leader of the Chinese community named Yap Ah Loy took the reins to steer development and became known as one of the early fathers of the city. It was the state Civil War, however, that was most devastating. The Selangor Civil War involved royal factions fighting for power and territory. Each side had its own local and Chinese supporters. Swept up in conflict, KL burnt to the ground. By 1873 the Civil War ended and KL again grew as a centre of tin mining and trade. At about the same time, a struggle was also playing out for the throne of Perak; the state to the north of Selangor. This became the reason for the British to intervene, and eventually gain a foothold in Perak and other Malay states including Selangor with Kuala Lumpur at its centre. British agreements with the local Malay Rulers called for the presence of an official British Resident in each state. This was the beginning of a dramatically increased colonial involvement in Malaya, one that would eventually place Kuala Lumpur at the centre of Malaysia's history.
In 1881, a flood swept through the town following a fire which engulfed it earlier. These successive problems destroyed the town's structures of wood and atap (thatching). As a response, Frank Swettenham, the British Resident of Selangor, required that buildings be constructed of brick and tile. Many of the new brick buildings mirrored that of shop houses in southern China, with "five foot ways" as well as skilled Chinese carpentry. This resulted in the distinct eclectic shop house architecture typical to this region. A railway line increased accessibility into this town.
In 1896, Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States In 1896, the British got the Sultans of four states to unite under the umbrella of the Federated Malay States (FMS), and KL was chosen as the capital because of its central position. The city became a classic center of British colonialism. Sharply uniformed officers and bureaucrats administered the FMS from beneath the distinctive copper domes of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and other colonial edifices that still stand today. A mixture of different communities settled in various sections of Kuala Lumpur. The Chinese mainly settled around the commercial centre of Market Square, east of Klang River, and towards Chinatown. The Malays, Indian Chettiars, and Indian Muslims resided along Java Street (now Jalan Tun Perak).
Kuala Lumpur's population greatly increased after World War II; and under a resettlement program, new villages were established in the city's outskirts during a long Communist-led guerrilla insurgency in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. Finally after struggles and negotiations for independence, at midnight on August 30, 1957, amidst a crowd of thousands, British soldiers lowered the Union Jack on the field in front of the Selangor Club and the Malayan flag was raised. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, the first Prime Minister declared Malaya's independence. Thereafter in 1957, Kuala Lumpur was declared the capital of the Federation of Malaya and continued to be the capital of the expanded and renamed Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
On 14 May 1990, Kuala Lumpur was celebrated 100 years of local authority. The new federal territory of Kuala Lumpur flag and anthem were introduced.
On February 1, 2001, Putrajaya was declared a Federal Territory, as well as the seat of the federal government. The administrative and judicial functions of the government were shifted from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. Kuala Lumpur however still retained its legislative function, and remained the home of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King).
Since then, KL never turned back. Socio-political stability and strong leadership encouraged the rapid growth of agriculture and then the manufacturing industry of Malaysia, which stimulated the rapid development of the city. Buildings rose so fast they grew overnight, as some would describe it. Today, KL is one of the most vibrant cities in the world despite its young history of only 160 years or so.