Microliths found at Birbhanpur, near Durgapur, indicate settlements in the Ajay valley in the Paleolithic/ Mesolithic age, around 5,000 BC.
In early historical times Bardhamanbhukti, a part of the Rarh region, was ruled successively by the Magadhas, Mauryas, Kushanas and Guptas. In the 7th century AD, when Shashanka was king, the area was part of the Gauda Kingdom. It was ruled by the Palas and Senas, till Bakhtiyar Khilji captured it in 1199 AD.

The early Muslim rulers ruled over major parts of Bengal from Gauda or Lakhnauti. In Ain-i-Akbari, Bardhaman is mentioned as a mahal or pargana of Sarcar Sharifabad. The area between the Damodar and the Ajay river was referred to Gopbhum, where the Sadgope kings ruled. There are remains of the period at Shymarupar Garh and Ichhai Ghosher deul in Kanksa CD Block.
In 1689, Raja Krishnaram Roy, of the Bardhaman Raj family, obtained a farman (royal decree) from Aurangzeb by which he was made the zamindar (landlord) of Bardhaman, and since then the Raj family’s history became identical with that of the district. There are references to the Raja of Panchkot being zamindar of certain sections (mostly the western part) of what later became Asansol subdivision. There also are references to the Raja of Searsole being zamindar of the Raniganj area.

After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire became weak and Murshid Quli Khan became the Nawab of Bengal, owning only nominal allegiance to the Mughal emperor. At that time Bardhaman was referred to as chakla, a change from the earlier pargana. Subsequently, during the reign of Alivardi Khan, the Bargis attacked and plundered Bardhaman.
After the victory of the British in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the fertile district of Bardhaman, along with Medinipur and Chittagong, was ceded to the East India Company. In 1857, the British Crown took over the administration of the country from the East India Company.

In 1765, when East India Company acquired the diwani of Bardhaman, it was composed of Bardhaman, Bankura, Hooghly and a third of Birbhum. In 1805, the western parganas of Shergarh and Senpahari (which later formed Asansol subdivision) and parts of Bankura were formed into a new district called Jungle Mahals. Shergarh and Senpahari was restored to Bardhaman, when Bankura was made into a separate district. Hooghly was separated in 1820, Bankura and Birbhum in 1837. At the time of the Permanent Settlement of Lord Cornwallis in 1793, the chaklas were reduced in size, in order to make them more manageable, and districts were created. Six subdivisions were created in Bardhaman district – Bud Bud in 1846, Katwa, Raniganj, Jahanabad (later named Arambagh), and Bardhaman Sadar in 1847 and Kalna in 1850. In 1906, Raniganj subdivision was converted to Asansol subdivision. The parganas were converted to thanas (police stations). At that time there were 22 thanas in Bardhaman district. Later, Jahanabad was transferred out of Bardhaman. Some minor changes went on taking place. Durgapur subdivision was carved out of Asansol subdivision in 1968.

The Permanent Settlement ultimately led to the dismemberment of the Bardhaman estate. As the rajas often failed to pay the rent demands, some parts of the estate were auctioned off. However, there were bright spots even in the later period of the rule of Bardhaman zamindary till abolition of the zamindary system in 1954, after independence of the country.
Bardhaman district was bifurcated into two districts, Purba Bardhaman and Paschim Bardhaman, on 7 April 2017.