The vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital (Caracas) which is also the largest city in Venezuela.
Oil was discovered in the early 20th century, and Venezuela has the world’s largest known oil reserves and has been one of the world’s leading exporters of oil.
In 1895, a longstanding dispute with Great Britain about the territory of Guayana Esequiba, which Britain claimed as part of British Guiana and Venezuela saw as Venezuelan territory, erupted into the Venezuela Crisis of 1895. The dispute became a diplomatic crisis when Venezuela’s lobbyist William L. Scruggs sought to argue that British behavior over the issue violated the United States’ Monroe Doctrine of 1823, and used his influence in Washington, D.C., to pursue the matter.
Spain’s colonization of mainland Venezuela started in 1522, establishing its first permanent South American settlement in the present-day city of Cumaná. In the 16th century, Venezuela was contracted as a concession by the King of Spain to the German Welser banking family (Klein-Venedig, 1528–1546).
Slavery in Venezuela was abolished in 1854. Much of Venezuela’s 19th-century history was characterized by political turmoil and dictatorial rule, including the Independence leader José Antonio Páez, who gained the presidency three times and served a total of 11 years between 1830 and 1863.