Various flint and bone fragments, as well as Roman coins, were found in this area, attesting to the early settlements in the region. In the 4th century, the Romans had to deal with a constant push of Germanic tribes coming from the east. Successful at first at containing them, they finally had to concede defeat, allowing Clovis's Salian Franks to occupy the region at the end of the 5th century. The Verviers area was covered with forests and became a hunting ground for the Merovingian kings, who maintained a vicus in neighbouring Theux. It was also slowly Christianized by the monks of the nearby Abbey of Stavelot.
The first mention of a textile industry in this area dates from the 15th century. One century later, the cloth industry took the place of the older metallurgical works, thanks in part to the Eighty Years War raging in the neighbouring Netherlands. The size of the town, however, remained relatively modest. It was only in 1651 that the expansion of the fulleries led to Verviers being recognized as one of the prince-bishopric's bonnes villes (main cities).
The end of the 18th century was troubled by the French Revolution. The annexation of Liège to France in 1795 caused a steep economic decline and unprecedented poverty. The city's fortunes rose again after the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Verviers was at the eastern end of the sillon industriel, the industrial backbone of Wallonia. Industrialist William Cockerill used British know-how to start a new era in Verviers' textile industry. Roads were paved, gas lighting was installed, and the city doubled in size thanks to the Industrial Revolution. After World War I, Verviers could share with Bradford the title of "Wool Capital of the World".
Verviers was home to a thriving wool and textile industry that was renowned for its quality. It contributed greatly to the wealth of the town. However, as of the 1950s, the local factories could not face international competition and started closing one after the other which prompted the economic decline of the town. The economy has been slowly recovering since the mid-1990s but remains fragile. Several commercial complexes have opened in recent years in an attempt to revitalize the most affected areas.