Malappuram district was under the control of several rulers including the Cheras. The Ponnani port was a major trade centre of the Romans. During the 9th century, Malappuram was ruled by the Kulasekharas of Mahodayapuram. With the disintegration of this kingdom, arose many Nair states such as Valluvanad, Vettathunad, Parappanad etc. In the 13th century the Raja of Calicut conquered the whole Malabar area. When the European countries landed in Malabar in the 15th century, the whole area came under their control. The dependents of the Samoothiris joined with the foreign rulers to defeat the Samoothiris. It was during the 18th century that the Mysore rulers, Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sulthan came to Malabar to conquer the area.
During the 20th century, Malappuram has participated in the Khilafat Movement and Moplah Rebellion. It was also a center of the Malabar rebellion in 1921. Before Independence, Malappuram was a part of Malabar district of Madras Presidency and remained a part of it for sometime after Independence also. Later when the district of Malappuram was formed, it included 4 taluks namely Ernad, Perinthalmanna, Tirur and Ponnani. Later two more taluks were added namely Tirurangadi and Nilambur.