History of Rae Bareli District does not talk much about the administrative status of the district prior to the Muslim invasion, except that it formed part of Kosala, ancient state of northern India. At the beginning of the 13th century AD, what is now Rae Bareli and the tracts around it were ruled by the Bhars who were displaced by the Rajputs and, in a few places by some Muslim rulers. The south western part of the district was occupied by the Bais Rajputs. The Kanpurias and Amethias, other Rajput clans, established themselves respectively in the north east and east. During the rule of the Delhi sultans nearly the whole tract nominally formed a part of their kingdom. During the reign of Akbar the area now covered by the district was divided between the sirkars of Avadh and Lucknow in the subah of Allahabad, the sirkar of Manikpur which included the larger part of the district as it extended from the present Mohanlal Ganj Pargana of Lucknow District on the north west and to Pargana Inhauna on the north east. In 1762, the sirkars of Manikpur were included in the territory of Avadh.
In 1858, it was proposed to form a new district with headquarters at Rae Bareli, as a part of the Lucknow Division. The district, as then constituted, was very different in shape and size from the existing one and was divided into four tehsils, Rae Bareli, Haidergarh, Bihar and Dalmau. Further, during the freedom struggle of the country, Rae Bareli District played a significant role.