Liberia is one of only two modern countries in Sub-Saharan Africa without roots in the European Scramble for Africa. Slaves freed from slave ships were also sent there instead of being repatriated to their countries of origin. In 1847, these colonists founded the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the US and naming the capital city Monrovia after the James Monroe the fifth president of the United States and a prominent supporter of the colonization. The colonists, known as Americo-Liberians, monopolized the political and economic sectors of the country despite comprising only a small percentage of the largely indigenous population.
The country began to modernize in the 1940s following investment by the United States during World War II and economic liberalization under President William Tubman. A military coup overthrew the Americo-Liberian establishment in 1980, marking the beginning of political and economic instability and two successive civil wars that left approximately 250,000 people dead and devastated the country's economy. A 2003 peace deal led to democratic elections in 2005. Today, Liberia is recovering from the lingering effects of the civil war and related economic dislocation, with about 85% of the population living below the international poverty line.