Although people have inhabited the area as far back as the Bronze Age, the written history of Cesky Krumlov dates back to 1253, when it is first mentioned as Chrumbonowe. The town's name is derived from the German words "Krumme Aue" or crooked meadow. "Cesky" simply means Czech.
Construction of the town first began in the middle of the 13th century at the base of its castle, built to guard the Moldau (Vltava) valley and surrounding area when Premsyl Otakar II of Bohemia attempted to increase the area's population. The first inhabitants were Czechs, Germans, and Italians. After a change of rulers in 1302, at which time Krumlov, the castle and its domain became the property of the Rosenberg family, the town of Cesky Krumlov grew and prospered. The castle, now the main home of the Rosenberg dynasty, was expanded in keeping with its inhabitants' increasing importance, and the entire area flourished. By 1376, there were 96 houses in the town and it had been granted various privileges such as market rights, brewing rights, milling rights, etc.
In 1601, Peter von Rosenberg, the last of the line, was forced to sell Cesky Krumlov to Emperor Rudolf II of Hapsburg to settle outstanding debts. Over the next few centuries, the town - like most of Czechia - was ruled by numerous nations, passing back and forth at sometimes breathtaking pace between Austria-Hungary, Prussia, and Sweden. When the dust settled and Cesky Krumlov was firmly placed in Austro-Hungarian hands, the city's importance had increased, but because it was not as significant to the empire as Vienna or Prague, it was not subjected to extensive changes as were many other imperial towns, which has allowed Cesky Krumlov to retain much of its original beauty and feel.
By the mid 19th century, the town's population reached 5,000 inhabitants. A battalion of infantrymen was accommodated in the castle. New schools were built - a music school and an orphanage - as well as two breweries, two paper mills, three mills, a flax spinning mill, and a broadcloth mill were founded. During this time, the town's appearance was extensively changed for the first time: the town walls were demolished along with all but one of the town gates, Budějovická. Graphite mines were opened near the castle gardens at the end of the 19th century, and a lintel and frame factory and a new paper mill began operating.
Conflicts between the Czech and German population broke out at the end of the 19th century. When the Czechoslovakian Republic was founded in October 1918, the German population responded by declaring an independent Šumava Province or Böhmerwaldgau which was to become part of a newly constituted Austria. This movement was suppressed by the Czech army and in November if the same year, the region was occupied by Czech forces. In April 1920 the town was renamed from Krumau to Český Krumlov.