The city was founded in the eighteenth century by the Ewe people. In 1882, the village, known then as Bey Beach, became a major trading centre with the arrival of Chico and Octaviano Olympio as agents for the British trading firm A. and F. Swanzy. Bey Beach became the capital of Togo when the German rulers transferred capital status from Aneho in 1897. The city then grew quickly until it was taken by the French Army in 1914 during World War I.
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