Riga began to develop as a centre of Viking trade during the early middle Ages. Riga’s inhabitants occupied themselves mainly with fishing, animal husbandry, and trading, later developing crafts (in bone, wood, amber, and iron).
The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia testifies to Riga having long been a trading centre by the 12th century, referring to it as portus antiquus (ancient port), and describes dwellings and warehouses used to store mostly corn, flax, and hides. German traders began visiting Riga, establishing a nearby outpost in 1158.
Along with German traders also arrived the monk Meinhard of Segeberg to convert the pagans to Christianity. (Catholic and Orthodox Christianity had already arrived in Latvia more than a century earlier, and many Latvians baptised) Meinhard settled among the Livs, building a castle and church at Ikšķile, upstream from Riga, and established his bishopric there. The Livs, however, continued to practice paganism and Meinhard died in Ikšķile in 1196, having failed his mission. In 1198 the Bishop Bertold arrived with a contingent of crusaders and commenced a campaign of forced Christianization. Bertold was killed soon afterwards and his forces defeated.
The Church mobilized to avenge. Pope Innocent III issued a bill declaring a crusade against the Livonians. Bishop Albert was proclaimed Bishop of Livonia by his uncle Hartwig of Uthlede, Prince-Archbishop of Bremen and Hamburg in 1199. Albert landed in Riga in 1200 with 23 ships and 500 Westphalian crusaders. In 1201 he transferred the seat of the Livonian bishopric from Ikšķile to Riga, extorting agreement to do so from the elders of Riga by force.
In 1986, the policy of economic reform, introduced as Perestroika, led to dissolution of the Soviet Union and restoration of independent Latvia in 1991. Latvia formally joined the United Nations as an independent country on 17th of September 1991. In 2004 Latvia joined both NATO and the European Union.