A settlement called “Biała,” which belonged to the Ilinicz family, was first mentioned in historical records in 1481. Piotr Janowicz (called “Biały” – “the White”), the governor of Trockie Province and a hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is considered to be the founder of the settlement. At the time, Biała was a part of Brzeskie Province within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and was granted municipal rights in 1522.
In 1569, the ownership of Biała was transferred to the Radziwiłł family, who brought the town 250 years of prosperity. At that time, the town was referred to as “Biała Książęca” or “Biała Radziwiłłowska.” In 1622, a defensive castle was was constructed in the town. In 1628, the Bialska Academy, founded by Krzysztof Ciborowicz Wilski, was established in the town. The academy became a branch of the Krakow Academy in 1633 (at present: the J.I. Kraszewski Secondary School No.1).
Between 1655 and 1660, the town was destroyed several times – first by the Swedish army, and later by the Transylvanian army of the Rákóczi and the Russian troops led by Khovansky. With the support of its owners, the town was restored after each attack. In 1670, Biała was granted the Magdeburg municipal rights and its own crest with the image of Archangel Michael standing on a dragon. During that period, the town became a famous centre of cloth and ceramics production and would also later develop production in wooden goods. Jews began to settle in Biała in the 17th century. They soon became the largest demographic and ethno-religious group in the town, playing a dominant role in the town's economy.
In 1795, Biała Podlaska became a part of the Austrian Partition (New Galicia). After 1809 it belonged to the Duchy of Warsaw (Siedlce Department), and then, after 1815, to the Kingdom of Poland (Podlaskie Province, later Siedlce Governorate). With the Russian authorities seeking to boost the process of Russification of the Pobuże region, parts of Siedlce Governorate and Lublin Governorate were merged into a new unit in 1912 – Chełm Governorate, which encompassed Bialski District, created in 1867.
In 1918, Biała was incorporated into the territory of restored Poland. The interwar period was marked by prosperity and stability within the town. This period saw the construction of the Raabe factory and an electricity plant. The Podlasie Aircraft Works (Podlaska Wytwórnia Samolotów), a company that produced military planes, operated in the town in the years 1923-1939.
On 1 September 1939, Biała Podlaska and the Podlasie Aircraft Works with its airport were bombarded by the German Air Force. Those bombings and the ones that followed completely destroyed more than a dozen streets in the town. On 18 September, German tanks entered Biała Podlaska; on 25 September, the first troops of the Soviet Army arrived there. As a result of the agreement concluded between Stalin and Hitler on 28 September 1939, the Red Army backed away, retreating across the Bug River. Some of the Jews from Podlasie left the town with them. On 10 October, the Nazi occupation began. In December 1940, a ghetto was established in the town, but it was liquidated the very next year.
Soviet troops once again entered the town in 1944. Biała became a part of Lubelskie Province, as it used to be in the interwar period (until 1975 and once again after 1999). In 1975, Biała Podlaska became the seat of a new province, which contributed to a significant growth in its population. Since the administrative reform of 1999, the town has enjoyed the status of magistrate district and the capital of Bialski District.
- Jadczak S., Biała Podlaska, dzieje miasta i jego zabytki, Lublin 1993.
- Sroka J., Biała na Podlasiu, Lublin 1968.