Over 191 Middle Palaeolithic localities have been discovered in the Kalagdi basin of the district. The discovery of settlements in the village of Lakhamapura near the Malaprabha valley yielded the identification of quartzitic artefacts such as handaxes and cleavers. A pre-Chalukyan brick temple was discovered at the foothills of Bachinagudda, in Pattadakal, where an idol depicting the bust of Chaturmukha Shiva was discovered. Evidence of megalithic habitation was also discovered at the foothills of Bachinagudda, as were Marahathi and Satavahana coins of a later period.
The first documented evidence of the existence of Bagalkot district dates back to the 2nd century CE, when the taluks of Badami, Indi and Kalkeri were mentioned in the works of the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. In the 6th century CE, the Hindu Chalukya rulers ruled over much of present South India. The Chalukyan king Pulakeshin I established Bagalkote as his administrative headquarters; the district retained its prominent status until the Chalukyan empire was sacked by the Rashtrakutas in 753 CE. The Chinese explorer Hieun-Tsang visited Badami and described the people as “tall, proud,…brave and exceedingly chivalrous”. He estimated the kingdom to be approximately 1,200 mi in circumference.
The period of rule of the Chalukyas of Badami, whose kingdom stretched from modern Karnataka to Maharashtra and Gujarat, was a highlight of Bagalkote’s history. Chalukya king Pulakeshin II further consolidated the empire by battling with the Kadambas, Gangas, Mauryas of the Konkan, Gurjaras and Emperor Harshavardhana, whom he vanquished on the banks of the Narmada river. Accounts of war were inscribed on stone structures in the town of Aihole, now located in the taluk of Hungund. The Kalyani Chalukyas, descendants of the Badami Chalukyas, conquered the area before the dawn of the 10th century CE. Their rule was interspersed with wars against the Cholas and Hoysalas. The Kalyani Chalukyas moved their capital from Badami to Kalyani, in the present day district of Bidar. Akkadevi, sister of the Kalyani Chalukya Jayasimha II ruled in the area for more than 40 years from 1024 CE. During the course of her rule of the area, then known as Kisukadu, seventy villages from Bagalkot district were added to her administration. The Chola king Vīrarajendra seized the area by defeating Someshvara I at Koodalasangama. By the 11th century CE, all of Karnataka including Bagalkote fell into the dominion of the Hoysala Empire, first consolidated by Veera Ballala and later subordinated to the Sinda kings.
The Yadavas of Deogiri annexed Bagalkote in 1190 CE and ruled until approximately the thirteenth century. The Deccan invasion by the Muslim Khalji dynasty, led by Ala ud din Khalji in 1294 brought an end to the rule of the Yadavas. In the 14th century, much of this territory was overrun by Muhammad Taghlaq. That the Taghlaqs were undisputed overlords of this territory cannot be established since Harihara, first king of the Vijayanagara Empire, is supposed to have possessed territories as far north as Kaladgi in 1340 and because a fort was built under permission from Harihara in Badami during that period. In the late 15th century, the Adil Shahi dynasty founded by Yusuf Adil Shah established an independent state with Bijapur as its capital. It is from this time that Bagalkot’s history is homogeneous to that of Bijapur’s. In 1818, after having lost their kingdom to the British, the Maratha Peshwas of Satara were crowned underlords of the kingdom. With the failing of their brief reign which ended in 1948, the district passed into the hands of the British Raj and was incorporated into the dominion of the Bombay Presidency.
India gained independence from the British in 1947; thereafter, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 allowed for the creation of a Mysore State, renamed Karnataka in 1971, and for Bijapur (and therefore Bagalkot) to be included in its dominion. A separate district of Bagalkot was carved out from the existing Bijapur district in 1997.
According to the 2011 census of the district, the towns of Bagalkote and Badami each had a population of over 100,000. Kannada is the primary language in the district. Approximately 88% of the district’s population is Hindu, while 11% is Muslim.