First settlements appeared in the territory of present-day Katowice towards the end of the 12th century. In 1138 the area of Bytom Castellany, where Katowice is located nowadays, was incorporated into the Seniorate Province, while in 1177 it was handed over by Duke Kazimierz II Sprawiedliwy to his nephew Mieszko Plątonogi and thus became part of Silesian Province.
At the turn of the 14th century, new villages called Bogucice, Ligota, Szopenice and Podlasie came into existence, as well as the village of Dąb (Crasni Domb), mentioned in 1299 in a document issued by the Duke of Bytom Kazimierz II. In 1327 the area came under Czech authority. In historical documents from 1468 there was a reference to the village of Podlesie, which is now one of the districts of Katowice, whereas the village of Katowice (Katowicze) was first mentioned in 1598. It is assumed that the settlement was founded on the right bank of the Rawa river by Andrzej Bogucki around 1580.
Until mid-18th century, when rich hard coal deposits were discovered here, Katowice had developed as a village. In 1742, the entire Upper Silesia, including Katowice, came under Prussian rule. As a result,, many German craftsmen and merchants began to settle in the area, which so far had been inhabited mostly by Poles, from the second half of the 18th century. In 1733, the first Jews settled in the village of Bogucice, which today is also a district of Katowice.
In the first half of the 19th century, intensive industrialisation of Katowice began. Different kinds of industrial companies, steelworks, mines, foundries, mills, and artisan workshops were established in the town. More and more working-class housing estates were built along with the development of mining and steel industry. The town was connected to the railway system already in the first half of the 19th century. The first train arrived at the Katowice station in 1847. The economic development contributed to a rapid growth of settlement in this area. In the second half of the 19th century, Germans (mainly Evangelicals), Moravians, and Jews were coming to live here.
A large Evangelical parish was founded in Katowice ca. 1857. In 1860, the Catholic cemetery and the brick Lord’s Resurrection Church were consecrated. The first synagogue was built in September 1862 and four years later, an independent Jewish community was established. It was thanks to the Jews and Protestants that the small settlement of Katowice turned into an important trade and industry centre, and soon afterwards, in 1865, obtained a city charter from King of Prussia William I Hihenzollern. The first municipal elections took place in 1866. Louis Diebel from Krapkowice was elected Mayor of the town, while Richard Holtze was the Chairman of the Town Council. The latter was a doctor of medicine, a well-known philanthropist, and co-founder of a Masonic lodge, later the deputy of Silesian Province Parliament. Two years after receiving town rights, in 1867, the population of Katowice amounted to almost 5,000 inhabitants, including Catholics (70%), Evangelicals (18%), and Jews (12%).
The period of World War I, surprisingly, proved to be a time of prosperity for Katowice, mainly thanks to the thriving economy in the steel industry. After the war, during the time when the Polish state was being created, three Silesian Uprisings took place in the years 1919–21. The first two insurrections were a response to repressions and terror directed by Germans against Polish people, with the rebels expressing dissatisfaction with the German domination in the administrative authorities. The third Silesian Uprising broke out in May 1921 because of an unfavourable result of the plebiscite (for Poles). The plebiscite was organised in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles in order to resolve which country would Upper Silesia be annexed to. 59.6% of all people in Silesia voted in favour of Germany; the percentage in Katowice was even higher and amounted to 85.4%. Ultimately, a convention concerning Śląsk was signed in 1922 in Geneva and, as a result, Katowice was incorporated into Poland. On 20 June 1922, the Polish Army entered Silesia and the Polish authorities took control over Katowice District. The town became the capital of the autonomous Śląskie Province as well as the seat of the Sejm Śląski (Silesian Parliament) and Mixed Committee of Upper Silesia (Polish: Górnośląska Komisja Mieszana). After 1922, many people of German descent, including many Jews who considered themselves German citizens, left Katowice.
In the interwar period, the number of inhabitants doubled because of the mass settlement of Poles from other regions of the country in the town. Katowice developed not only as an industry centre but also as an important educational, cultural and religious hub. In 1929, the Museum of Silesia was founded. In 1925, Pope Pius XI established the Diocese of Silesia (now: of Katowice, from 1992 an archdiocese).
In 1939, after the German army seized the town, Katowice and the entire Śląskie Province were incorporated into the Third Reich. In December 1940, Katowice became the capital of the German Gau Upper Silesia (German: Gau Oberschlesien).
The town was taken over by the Red Army on 27 January 1945. The soldiers plundered and burned a number of tenement houses on the Market Square, with many inhabitants taken away to Soviet mines in Vorkuta and Donbass.
On 7 March 1953, the name of Katowice was changed into Stalinogród, but the original, historical name was reintroduced as soon as December 1956.
In the post-war Poland, Katowice remained the capital of Śląskie Province (1950-1998 – Katowickie Province). The town strengthened its position as a scientific and cultural centre of the region, with the University of Silesia established there in 1968.
- Dzieje Katowic (1299–1945), ed. J. Starnawska, Katowice 1990.
- Katowice 1865–1945. Zarys rozwoju miasta, ed. J. Szaflarski, Katowice 1978.