Charleston is the largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The city is the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina's coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Charleston had an estimated population of 137,566 in 2019. The estimated population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, was 802,122 residents as of July 1, 2019, the third-largest in the state and the 74th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.
Charleston was founded in 1670 as Charles Town, honoring King Charles II of England. Its initial location at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley River (now Charles Towne Landing) was abandoned in 1680 for its present site, which became the fifth-largest city in North America within ten years. One of the key cities in the British colonization of the Americas, Charles Town played a major role in the slave trade, which laid the foundation for the city's size and wealth, and was dominated by a slavocracy of plantation owners and slave traders. Independent Charleston slave traders like Joseph Wragg were the first to break through the monopoly of the Royal African Company, pioneering the large-scale slave trade of the 18th century. Historians estimate that "nearly half of all Africans brought to America arrived in Charleston", most at Gadsden's Wharf.