The geographic and topographic location of South Bohemia, lying on the border of present-day Germany and Austria, has been an influential factor from the beginning of its history. The oldest evidence of human existence in this territory comes from 250,000 years BC, but settlement of the region itself began about 4 thousand years ago. The first to arrive to the area were the Celts, then the Germanic tribes, then finally the Slavs in the 6th century AD, who settled here permanently. This was the period during which a network of fortified settlements was established throughout South Bohemia. The area's favourable location made it the natural center of a number of trade routes passing through here from the north to the south, transporting precious goods like bronze items, precious fabrics, oils, spices, and salt. The most renowned of these routes is the Gold Route that led from Passau in German Bavaria.
The relatively calm and romantic appearance of the landscape, with its unique collection of historical monuments, gives the impression of a quiet historical development. The opposite, however, is true – South Bohemia often played a decisive role in the events of the Bohemian Kingdom and Czech State, and what played out here locally often had a strong influence on the historical events of Central Europe.
The first such major event was in the 12th century, when the territory of South Bohemia was ruled by the Vítkovec family. The Vítkovci became a strong rival to the ruling Přemyslid family in Prague. This rivalry played itself out in various conflicts over the royal throne and resulted in the establishment of a number of South Bohemian townships such as the royal towns of Písek and České Budějovice, and the feudal towns of Český Krumlov and Třeboň. It also resulted in an array of Medieval castles, smaller townships, and villages. It's for this reason that many of the settlements in the area emerged around the 13th and 14th centuries – this was the period of the strengthening of many noble families, such as the Rožmberks, whose power could be felt in nearly every part of South Bohemia.
The 15th century in Central Europe was marked to a large degree by the activities of the Hussites. They chose the center of Bohemia for their stronghold, forming the city of Tábor, now associated with the names of John Huss (Jan Hus), John Žižka of Trocnov, and Petr Chelčický. On one hand, the Medieval struggle for reform within the Catholic church brought about severe interruptions to the existing economic and social relationships, not to mention the destruction of many a monastery and cultural manor, but the conflict also set the stage for future reforms and the later cultural boom in Central Europe.
The 16th century saw the introduction of new methods of economic management and a significant development in the brewery and aquaculture practices of South Bohemia. This was mostly due to the work of the Lords of Hradec and the Rožmberks – these were among the families who bore the symbol of the five-petalled rose in their coat of arms, still visible today in many South Bohemian towns and in the seal of the South Bohemian administrative region itself. It was these events, particularly the development of the Třeboň aquaculture system, which brought fame to the names of the Rožmberk regents Štěpánek Netolický and Jakub Krčin of Jelčany.
Following the events of the Thirty Years' War, the region was gradually associated with the activities of the noble families of the Buquoys, Eggenbergs, and Schwarzenbergs.
Over the following years the people of South Bohemia, apart from a few exceptions, were not very significantly involved in the events of the Czech state, although there are many capable Czechs and Germans from the area worth noting: the entrepreneur Adalbert Lanna, architect Josef Rosenauer, electrotechnician František Křižík, writer Karel Klostermann, poet Adalbert Stifter, and many more.
The evacuation of the German inhabitants and the establishment of the Iron Curtain on the Czech border with Austria and Germany after 1945 presented severe obstacles to the further development of South Bohemia. The hardest hit were the border areas and the mountainous regions. Industry was slight here, but nowadays this has resulted in these parts of South Bohemia being some of the best preserved, cleanest, and most beautiful areas of the Czech Republic.