Over 2000 years ago the region was part of Ashoka’s great Buddhist empire, but only archaeological evidence of this era remains today. Muslim raids from the northwest began in the 11th century, and by the 16th century the region was part of the Mughal empire with its capital in Fatehpur Sikri, Agra and then Delhi.
Following the decline of the Mughal empire, Persian invaders stepped in briefly before the nawabs of Avadh rose to prominence in the central part of the region. The nawabs were responsible for turning Lucknow into a flourishing centre for the arts, but their empire came to a dramatic end when the British East India Company deposed the last nawab, triggering the Uprising of 1857. Agra was later merged with Avadh and the state became known as United Province. It was renamed Uttar Pradesh after Independence and has since been the most dominant state in Indian politics, producing half of the country’s prime ministers. However, the people of the state have not benefited much from this as poor governance, a high birth rate, a low literacy rate and an erratic electricity supply have held back economic progress in the past 60 years.
In 2000, the mountainous northwestern part of the state was carved off to create the new state of Uttaranchal.