Little is known of the early history of Togo. About the 12th century, the Ewes began to move into the region from the east. Portuguese slave traders raided the coast in the 15th century. Trading settlements were established by Portugal and later, in the 19th century, by France and Germany. Germany annexed the area in 1884 and later built roads and railways and introduced new crops. After Germany's defeat in World War I the German territory, called Togoland, was divided by the League of Nations into British and French mandates.

British Togoland joined with the Gold Coast to become Ghana in 1957. French Togoland became independent Togo in 1960. The army, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gnassingbe Eyadéma, seized control in 1967. Eyadéma assumed the presidency and began ruling as a dictator. Violent protests against the regime, beginning in 1990, forced Eyadéma to agree to democratic reforms and to share power with political opponents. In 1993 a democratic constitution was adopted, and Eyadéma was elected president. Legislative elections, held in 1994, were won by a coalition of opposition parties running against Eyadéma's party.

Eyadéma won presidential elections in 1998 and 2003. However, opponents claimed that the elections were corrupt. Some international organizations have accused Eyadéma's government of human rights violations in connection with the elections.

Eyadéma died in February, 2005. The military named his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as the Togolese president. The appointment of Faure was considered a military coup by some international leaders and organizations since, according to the country's constitution, the speaker of the National Assembly should have been installed in the post, until elections could be held. A presidential election was held in April, 2005, and Faure won.