Kottayam’s history began from the second Chera Empire. Earlier Kottayam and Ettumanoor were part of the Vanchunad while Vaikom and Meenachil were under Nanrulainadu. The Thekkumkoor and Vadakkumkoor rulers had Thazhathangadi in Kottayam as their headquarters. Vembolinadu which was established in 1100 AD was conquered by Marthanda Varma Raja during the mid 18th century and made it part of Travancore. Poonjar and Meenachil were also conquered later. Marthanda Varma Dharmaraja had chosen Kottayam as the place for fighting against the Mysore rulers, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sulthan.
Kottayam played a main role in the Indian independence. An important event that occurred here in 1924-1925 was the struggle for removing untouchability which is called as the Vaikom Satyagraha. The lower castes in the society were not allowed to enter the temple and also were even denied to take the road to the temple. It was at Vaikom that the Satyagraha took place. Famous National leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, C. Rajagopalachari and E.V. Ramswami Naykar were also associated with the struggle. During the early thirties, there was the Nivarthana agitation for representing the non Hindus in the State Legislature. The agitation led by the Congress for a government in Travancore was also held from here.
Kottayam district was a part of the princely state of Travancore in 1860. Earlier Cherthala was the headquarters of Travancore and later in 1878 Kottayam became the Headquarters. Travancore had two revenue divisions and was under the control of Diwan Peshkar. Kottayam was formed as a separate district in 1949 and instead of Diwan Peshkars, District collectors took over the control.