Humans have settled in the Edinburgh area from at least the Bronze Age, leaving traces of primitive stone settlements at Holyrood, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills.
In 1492 King James IV of Scotland undertook to move the Royal Court from Stirling to Holyrood, making Edinburgh the national capital. Edinburgh continued to flourish economically and culturally through the Renaissance period and was at the centre of the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the Wars of the Covenant a hundred years later.
In 1603 King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English and Irish thrones, fulfilling his ambition to create a united kingdom under the Stewart Monarchy. Although he retained the Parliament of Scotland in Edinburgh, he marched to London to rule from his throne there. He ordered that every public building in the land should bear his family's emblem, the red lion rampant, and to this day the most common name for a public house in Britain is the Red Lion.
In 1639, disputes between the Presbyterian Covenanters and the Anglican Church led to the Bishops' Wars, a prelude to the English Civil War. During the Third English Civil War Edinburgh was taken by the Commonwealth forces of Oliver Cromwell prior to Charles II's eventual defeat at the Battle of Worcester.
In the 19th century, Edinburgh, like many cities, industrialised, but did not grow as fast as Scotland's second city, Glasgow, which replaced it as the largest city in the country, benefitting greatly at the height of the British Empire.
Edinburgh: the university
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is an internationally renowned centre for teaching and research. It was the fourth university to be established in Scotland, making it one of the ancient universities of the United Kingdom. The founding of the University is attributed to Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, who left the funds on his death in 1558 that ultimately provided the University's endowment. The University was established by a Royal Charter granted by James VI in 1582, becoming the fourth Scottish university at a time when more populous neighbour England had only two.
There have been many notable alumni and faculty of the university, including economist Adam Smith, signatories to the US Declaration of Independence James Wilson and John Witherspoon, Prime Ministers Gordon Brown, Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, engineer Alexander Graham Bell, naturalist Charles Darwin and biologist Ian Wilmut, physicists James Clerk Maxwell, Max Born, Sir David Brewster, Tom Kibble, Peter Guthrie Tait and Peter Higgs, writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, and Sir Walter Scott, actor Ian Charleson, composers Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, and poet William Wordsworth.