No matter what type of government a country chooses for operating, there needs to be a central hub for that government to meet. Because of this, we have capital cities, and it’s something that has been around for ages. The capital city of a country doesn’t have to be the largest, it just has to be home to federal buildings and be the home to the leader of the nation.
Not every country has had the same capital throughout its entire history, however. There have been many notable nations that have changed the address of their leader’s home, though many of them happened before any of our lifetimes. Here’s a look at five of those countries that changed their capital city, detailing which one was the first and which one it is now.
United States of America
When the United States officially became a country in 1776, the first capital of the country was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You still see a lot of the history from the era throughout Philly, and it served as the capital a handful of times. After five months, the capital switched to Baltimore, Maryland before returning to Philadelphia.
It then changed hands to Lancaster and York (both in Pennsylvania) during the 1770s before returning yet again. After switching hands between several cities (including New York City), the United States finally found a permanent capital in the form of Washington D.C. The transition was made in November 1800 and hasn’t changed since. What has changed, however, is the venue. The United States Capitol has served as the venue since 1819.
Ever since 1868, Tokyo has served as the capital of Japan and is the largest city in the world (by population) by far. Even though it’s been well over a century since Tokyo became the capital, Japan has had a long list of capitals that predated it. The first established capital was Kashihara and the capital changed a total of 13 times during the era of Emperor Jimmu.
The capital then switched nearly 20 times during the Kofun period and even more during the Asuka period. Things started to slow down in the eighth century as there were six capital venues during this time in Heijo-kyo, Kuni-kyo, Naniwa-kyo, and Nagaoka-kyo. Heian-kyo became the long-time capital during the Heian period in 794, and maintained that position until Tokyo’s establishment in 1868, with the exception of Fukuhara Palace in 1180.
Australia is one of the newer developed countries of the world, having been established in 1901 after many made their way from the United Kingdom. As a result, there haven’t been many world capitals as some of the countries that have been around for several centuries if not more. Australia has only had two capitals, though, with the current one being Canberra.
Canberra is a planned city, and was always meant to be where Australia would establish the capital of the country. During the first several years of Australian history, though, Melbourne served as the ‘de facto’ capital. When Canberra was finally ready in 1927, operations moved from Melbourne, but the country’s first capital is still thriving today.
While it was still under British rule, what is now known simply as Canada went through a lot of different capitals during the mid-19th century while it was known as the Province of Canada. The first established capital was Kingston, Ontario, which was named the capital in 1841. After three years, operations moved to Montreal for another five years.
Toronto and Quebec City traded places as the capital from 1849 to 1866, with both cities serving as the capital on two different occasions. Finally, Ottawa became the capital of the Province of Canada in 1866. When the country established independence from the United Kingdom on July 1, 1867, Canada kept Ottawa as the capital where it has remained ever since.
Brazil has undergone a lot of changes throughout its long history, but it wasn’t until 1822 that the country declared its independence from Portugal and was officially recognized three years later. In the final years of Portugal’s rule, Rio de Janeiro was the capital city, and that remained true when it became an independent nation.
In fact, Rio was still the capital for more than a century after Brazil’s independence. It wasn’t until 1960 that the country changed course and established Brasilia. Like Australia, Brazil used a planned city so that the focus could be on creating government buildings first and foremost. Now, Brasilia is the third-largest city in the country.