Starting in the s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The term Vangaladesa is found in 11th century South Indian records.
The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century. History of Bangladesh Early and medieval periods Seal of the King Shashanka , who created the first separate political entity in a United Bengal , called the Gauda Kingdom Stone Age tools found in Bangladesh indicate human habitation for over 20, years,  and remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4, years.
By the 11th century people lived in systemically-aligned housing, buried their dead, and manufactured copper ornaments and black and red pottery. The early Iron Age saw the development of metal weaponry, coinage , agriculture and irrigation. These states had well-developed currencies, banking, shipping, architecture and art, and the ancient universities of Bikrampur and Mainamati hosted scholars and students from other parts of Asia.
Xuanzang of China was a noted scholar who resided at the Somapura Mahavihara the largest monastery in ancient India , and Atisa traveled from Bengal to Tibet to preach Buddhism. The earliest form of the Bengali language began to the emerge during the eighth century.
The Islamic conquest of Bengal began with the invasion by Bakhtiar Khilji ; after annexing Bengal to the Delhi Sultanate , Khilji waged a military campaign in Tibet.
Bengal was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate for a century by governors from the Mamluk , Balban and Tughluq dynasties. During the 14th century, an independent Bengal Sultanate was established by rebel governors. The sultanate's ruling houses included the Ilyas Shahi , Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah , Hussain Shahi , Suri and Karrani dynasties , and the era saw the introduction of a distinct mosque architecture  and the tangka currency.
The Arakan region was brought under Bengali hegemony. During the late 16th century, the Baro-Bhuyan a confederation of Muslim and Hindu aristocrats ruled eastern Bengal; its leader was the Mansad-e-Ala,  a title held by Isa Khan and his son Musa Khan.
The Khan dynasty are considered local heroes for resisting North Indian invasions with their river navies. During the reign of Emperor Akbar , the Bengali agrarian calendar was reformed to facilitate tax collection. The Mughals established Dhaka as a fort city and commercial metropolis, and it was the capital of Mughal Bengal for 75 years. Mughal Bengal attracted foreign traders for its muslin and silk goods, and the Armenians were a notable merchant community. A Portuguese settlement in Chittagong flourished in the southeast, and a Dutch settlement in Rajshahi existed in the north.
During the 18th century, the Nawabs of Bengal became the region's de facto rulers. The Nawabs forged alliances with European colonial companies, which made the region relatively prosperous early in the century.
The Bengali Muslim population was a product of conversion and religious evolution,  and their pre-Islamic beliefs included elements of Buddhism and Hinduism. The construction of mosques, Islamic academies madrasas and Sufi monasteries khanqahs facilitated conversion, and Islamic cosmology played a significant role in developing Bengali Muslim society.
Scholars have theorized that Bengalis were attracted to Islam by its egalitarian social order, which contrasted with the Hindu caste system. Syncretic cults, such as the Baul movement, emerged on the fringes of Bengali Muslim society. The Persianate culture was significant in Bengal, where cities like Sonargaon became the easternmost centers of Persian influence. The company formed the Presidency of Fort William , which administered the region until A notable aspect of company rule was the Permanent Settlement , which established the feudal zamindari system.
A number of famines, including the great Bengal famine of , occurred under company rule. Several rebellions broke out during the early 19th century including one led by Titumir , but British rule displaced the Muslim ruling class. A conservative Islamic cleric, Haji Shariatullah , sought to overthrow the British by propagating Islamic revivalism.
Several towns in Bangladesh participated in the Indian Mutiny and pledged allegiance to the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar , who was later exiled to neighboring Burma. Prime Ministers of Bengal A. Fazlul Huq , Khawaja Nazimuddin and H. Suhrawardy The challenge posed to company rule by the failed Indian Mutiny led to the creation of the British Indian Empire as a crown colony , and the first railway was built in During the late 19th century, novelists, social reformers and feminists emerged from Muslim Bengali society.
Electricity and municipal water systems were introduced in the s; cinemas opened in many towns during the early 20th century. East Bengal's plantation economy was important to the British Empire, particularly its jute and tea.
The British established tax-free river ports , such as the Port of Narayanganj , and large seaports like the Port of Chittagong. Social tensions also increased under British rule, particularly between wealthy Hindus and the Muslim-majority population. The Permanent Settlement made millions of Muslim peasants tenants of Hindu estates, and resentment of the Hindu landed gentry grew. However, the first partition of Bengal created an uproar in Calcutta and the Indian National Congress.
The British government reorganized the provinces in , reuniting East and West Bengal and making Assam a second province. It established the Bengal Legislative Council in , and the council's native Bengali representation increased during the early 20th century. The Bengal Provincial Muslim League was formed in to advocate civil rights for Bengali Muslims within a constitutional framework. During the s, the league was divided into factions supporting the Khilafat movement and favoring cooperation with the British to achieve self-rule.
Segments of the Bengali elite supported Mustafa Kemal Ataturk secularist forces. After the Morley-Minto Reforms and the diarchy era in the legislatures of British India , the British government promised limited provincial autonomy in Although it won a majority of seats in , the Bengal Congress boycotted the legislature. In Huq supported the Lahore Resolution , which envisaged independent states in the northwestern and eastern Muslim-majority regions of the subcontinent.
The first Huq ministry, a coalition with the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, lasted until ; it was followed by a Huq coalition with the Hindu Mahasabha which lasted until Huq was succeeded by Khawaja Nazimuddin , who grappled with the effects of the Burma Campaign , the Bengal famine of and the Quit India movement. In , the Bengal Provincial Muslim League won the provincial election, taking of the seat assembly the largest Muslim League mandate in British India.
Suhrawardy , who made a final futile effort for a United Bengal in , was the last premier of Bengal. Union with Pakistan Main articles: At the preliminary joint meeting, it was decided votes to 90 that if the province remained united it should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. At a separate meeting of legislators from West Bengal , it was decided 58 votes to 21 that the province should be partitioned and West Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of India.
At another meeting of legislators from East Bengal , it was decided votes to 35 that the province should not be partitioned and votes to 34 that East Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan if Bengal was partitioned. Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the borders of Pakistan and India, and the Radcliffe Line established the borders of present-day Bangladesh.
The Dominion of Pakistan was created on 14 August The Dominion of Pakistan in , with East Bengal its eastern part East Bengal, with Dhaka its capital, was the most populous province of the Pakistani federation led by Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah , who promised freedom of religion and secular democracy in the new state.
Partition gave increased economic opportunity to East Bengalis, producing an urban population during the s. The United Front coalition swept aside the Muslim League in a landslide victory in the East Bengali legislative election.
Female students march in defiance of the Section prohibition on assembly during the Bengali Language Movement in early Pakistan adopted its first constitution in Three Bengalis were its Prime Minister until Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali of Bogra and Suhrawardy. None of the three completed their terms, and resigned from office.
The Pakistan Army imposed military rule in , and Ayub Khan was the country's strongman for 11 years. Political repression increased after the coup.
Khan introduced a new constitution in , replacing Pakistan's parliamentary system with a presidential and gubernatorial system based on electoral college selection known as Basic Democracy. In Dhaka became the seat of the National Assembly of Pakistan , a move seen as appeasing increased Bengali nationalism.
According to senior World Bank officials, Pakistan practiced extensive economic discrimination against East Pakistan: General Yahya Khan assumed power, reintroducing martial law. Ethnic and linguistic discrimination was common in Pakistan's civil and military services, in which Bengalis were under-represented. Fifteen percent of Pakistani central-government offices were occupied by East Pakistanis, who formed 10 percent of the military.
The League claimed the right to form a government and develop a new constitution, but was strongly opposed by the Pakistani military and the Pakistan Peoples Party led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.