Chosen by Prince Miloš Obrenović as the seat for the National Assembly upon its liberation from the Turks in 1818, Kragujevac was home to a series of firsts. Serbia's first theatre, grammar school, courthouse, printing house, newspaper and a military academy were all founded here during the 1830s. The glory days didn't last long, however, as the capital was moved to Belgrade in 1841.
In 1853, Serbia's first industrial plant – a cannon foundry (topolivnica) – was established in Kragujevac and soon grew into a major armaments factory, which significantly contributed to the town's further development.
Kragujevac suffered heavily in WWII: on 21 October 1941, the occupying German forces executed around 3000 civilians (including women and children) in a single day, in reprisal for the Partisans' attacks on their soldiers. The massacre was carried out in the area that is now Šumarice Memorial Park.
In the postwar period, Kragujevac became an industrial powerhouse; its new Crvena Zastava automobile factory was where the popular Fića (a version of Fiat 600), followed by Yugoslavia's trademark Zastava and Yugo cars, were produced.