The name "Delaware" is derived from "De La Warr," after Robert West, Baron de la Warr, governor of Virginia. The region was claimed by the British and the Dutch. Dutch settlers founded a colony in 1631, which was destroyed by the Indians. In 1638, a Swedish settlement was established near present-day Wilmington by Peter Minuit. The Swedes fought the Dutch for control of the area, but lost by 1655. In turn, the Dutch lost New Netherland in 1664 to the British, who maintained almost uninterrupted control until the Revolution.
Initially part of Pennsylvania, Delaware was granted a limited separate legislature in 1703. Delaware declared its independent state government in 1776 and was the first state to ratify the constitution in 1787. During the Civil War, the state permitted slavery until it was abolished by the 13th Amendment. Delaware remained in the Union despite sentiment favoring the Confederacy in the southern part of the state.
As a result of favorable corporate laws in Delaware, many national corporations have officially registered themselves as Delaware corporations. The largest company actually based in the state is the DuPont chemical company.