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Following its early settlement by the Awori nobility, and its conquest by the Bini warlords of Benin, the state first came to the attention of the Portuguese in the 15th century.
Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira visited the area in 1472, naming the area around the city Lago de Curamo.
Another explanation is that Lagos was named for Lagos, Portugal—a maritime town which, at the time, was the main centre of Portuguese expeditions down the African coast.
In Britain's early 19th century fight against the transatlantic slave trade, its West Africa Squadron or Preventative Squadron as it was also known, continued to pursue Portuguese, American, French and Cuban slave ships and to impose anti-slavery treaties with West African coastal chiefs with so much doggedness that they created a strong presence along the West African coast from Sierra Leone all the way to the Niger Delta (today's Nigeria) and as far south as Congo.
Lagos played the dual role of being the State and Federal Capital until 1976, when the state capital was moved to Ikeja.
Lagos was adversely affected during Nigeria's military rule.
It also houses most of the upscale residential areas in Lagos.
Before the creation of Lagos State on , Lagos, which was the country's capital had been administered directly by the Federal Government as a Federal Territory through the Federal Ministry of Lagos Affairs, while the Lagos City Council (LCC) governed the city.
Lagos city was split into the present day seven Local Government Areas (LGAs), while the other towns now make up 13 LGAs in the state.
The remainder of modern-day Nigeria was seized in 1887, and when the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established in 1914, Lagos was declared its capital, continuing as such after the country's independence from Britain in 1960.
Along with migrants from all over Nigeria and other West African nations were the returnee ex-slaves known as Creoles, who came from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Brazil and the West Indies to Lagos.William Mc Coskry, the Acting Consul in Lagos with Commander Bedingfield convened a meeting with Oba Dosunmu on 30 July 1861 aboard HMS Prometheus where Britain's intent was explained and a response to the terms were required by August 1861.