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Before the arrival of Europeans, the area that is today Maryland was inhabited by various Native American peoples. When Europeans arrived in the early 17th century, these included the Accohannock and Powhatan on Maryland's Western shore, and Nanticoke on the eastern shore. However, the Native American peoples were relatively quickly pushed out of the state, with the last tribe, the Shawnee, leaving in the 1740s.
The first European explorers to reach Maryland where various expeditions under English, French and Spanish flags in the 16th century, however no permanent settlements were established until the following century.
In 1632, George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore (whose coat of arms appears on the Maryland flag) applied to King Charles I of England for a royal charter to establish a new province. George Calvert died before the charter could be granted, and the charter was instead granted to his son, Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore later that same year. The first settlers, led by Cecil Calvert's younger brother, Leonard, departed from England in 1633, and landed on March 25th 1634 (a date that is still commemorated in the state each year as "Maryland Day").
The new colony of Maryland was named after Henrietta Maria, the Queen consort of Charles I. The goal of the colony was to establish a safe haven for English Catholics (the Calverts themselves were Catholic), as well as to turn a profit. As a result, Maryland soon became one of only a handful of predominately Catholic regions in the English colonies in America. This was not without controversy: there were serious anti-Catholic revolts, which resulted in the temporary overthrow of the Calvert family in 1644 to 1646, and 1650 to 1658.
One interesting aspect of early Maryland history, is that the royal charter was based on an incorrect map that would have put Pennsylvania's major city of Philadelphia within Maryland. In 1750, the Penn family (who controlled Pennsylvania) and the Calvert family, agreed to engage two surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to survey a new boundary between the two colonies, which was named the Mason-Dixon line. Seventy years later, this line would become very important as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820: the expansion of slavery in the United States was only permitted South of this line.
During the American Revolution (1775 to 1783), Maryland, like many other colonies, was at first reluctant to split from Britain. Although no major battles took place within Maryland, the state did contribute important troops to the Continental Army, and it is probably from this contribution that the state gets the nickname "Old Line State". Additionally, the Continental Congress met for a few months in Baltimore in 1776 to 1777, and Annapolis also served as the US capital for just over seven months in 1783 to 1784.
Following the American Revolution the establishment of new permanent national capital was one of the first issues for the new government to address. A number of candidate cities were considered including Annapolis, but eventually it was decided to build a new capital (Washington D.C.). Maryland ceded approximately 61 square miles and Virginia approximately 39 square miles, to the federal government for this purpose (although Virginia's contribution was returned in 1846).
During the War of 1812, Maryland was the scene of two important battles. In 1814, the British defeated the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, and as result were able to capture Washington D.C. and burn many of the public buildings. The British navy also bombarded Fort McHenry (which defended Baltimore for 25 hours, but were unable to force its surrender: events there inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" which was later to become the United States' national anthem.
During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), Maryland found itself in a difficult position as both a slave state and one of the border states that straddled both North and South. There was considerable popular support for the Confederate cause, but Maryland did not secede from the Union thanks to swift and firm action by Abraham Lincolm, and the eventual support of Governor Thomas H. Hicks (who had initially favored neutrality and preventing Union troops from crossing the state). Maryland would eventually provide about 25,000 troops for the Confederacy (mostly serving in the Army of North Virginia), and about 60,000 men for the Union (mostly serving garrison duty within the state).
Maryland was crossed by troops of both sides during the Civil War. The most important battle occurring in the state being the Battle of Antienam, which was fought on September 17th 1862 near Sharpsburg. The battle, fought between about 87,000 men on the Union side and 40,000 on the Confederate side, although tactically a draw, effectively ended Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North.
One of the most noteable events of the 20th century that took place in Maryland, was the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. The fire burned for over 30 hours on February 7th and February 8th, and destroyed more than 1,526 buildings across 70 city blocks. As a result of the fire, more than 35,000 people were left unemployed.
Like many former slave states, Maryland struggled with civil rights issues for long after the Civil War. For example, in the early 20th century there was several legislative attempts to disenfranchise African-Americans using property qualifications. On a brighter note, the 1935 case of Murray v. Pearson et al resulted in the integration of the University of Maryland Law School. This was the first time that any court had overturned the 1896 Supreme Court decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) approving racial segregation according to the "separate but equal" doctrine (although this particular new ruling had no authority outside Maryland).
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