First mentioned towards the end of the 11th century; Darmstadt was chartered as a city by the Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in 1330. The seat of the ruling landgraves (1567-1806) and thereafter (to 1918) grand dukes of the state of Hesse-Darmstadt, the city grew in population during the 19th century from little over 10,000 to 72,000 inhabitants. A Technical University was established in 1877.
In the begin of the 20th Century Darmstadt was an important centre for the art movement of Jugendstil, the German variant of Art Nouveau. Annual architectural competitions led to the building of many architectural treasures of thiis period. Survived until now have die Rosenhöhe, the Mathildenhöhe with a Russian Chapel, large exhibition halls and many private villas build by Jugendstil architects who had settled in Darmstadt.
Darmstadt's municipal area was extended in 1937 to include the neighbouring localities of Arheilgen and Eberstadt, and in 1938 the city was separated administratively from the surrounding district (Kreis). Its old centre was, however, largely destroyed in a British bombing raid of September 1944, which killed an estimated 11,000 inhabitants and rendered many more homeless. Most of Darmstadt's 3000 Jews died under Germany's Nazi regime.
In more modern times, Darmstadt is notable for its summer courses in contemporary classical music. They were founded as the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik by Wolfgang Steinecke, and ran first annually, then bi-anually. A large number of avant-garde composers have given lectures there, including Olivier Messiaen, Luciano Berio, Milton Babbitt, Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel.
Darmstadt is a centre for the pharmaceutical and chemical industry, with Merck and Röhm having their main plants and centres here.