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The first people to have explored the area of present day Illinois were the Paleo and the Archaic Indians, in as early as 5000 BC.
The last Indians to have a substantial presence in the area were of the Illiniwek tribes. By the 19th century they had lost many wars, and in these wars they had lost their population, and were eventually moved to reservations in the area now known as Kansas.
Illinois was controlled for a brief span of time from 1673 until 1763 by the French. In 1763 control of the area was taken by the British, who remained there until 1783 when it became a part of the Northern Territory.
The area’s major focus was that of the fur trade, and settlements were established in the south because of it.
Illinois became the 21st state of the United States of America in 1818, and for the next couple of decades the capital shifted locations often. First it was in Kaskaskia, then Vandalia, and eventually Springfield in 1837. The capital has remained in Springfield ever since.
In its early years Illinois had many problems, and its inhabitants often struggled. First there was the threat of the state going bankrupt, then wars, and then diseases.
After the civil war, things began turning around in Illinois. By 1880 it had the fourth largest population of all of the states.
In the 1900’s Illinois emerged as an important state in the progression of America.
For more information, check out a detailed history of Illinois.