Recent studies point to the development of Kerala's ancient society and culture, dating as far back as the Paleolithic Age. Much of Kerala may have been undersea before this.
The society was independently thriving and is said to have made contact with the Indus Valley Civilization in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age.
Ancient texts from civilizations flourishing around the world mention Kerala's kingdom as old back as 3000 BCE. Many scholars agree that Kerala got its name from the most dominant dynasty of the state called The Cheras, who held control over most present-day Kerala from as early as 400 BCE to the 12th century AD.
The region was in constant touch with the outside world, and hence the culture here was diverse and thriving. The Jews are known to have made contact with Kerala as early as 573 BCE, the Arabs around 4th century BCE; apart from them, the Cheras had linked to Egypt, China, the Roman Empire, and West Asia.
There were constant power struggles between the Cheras and the other great southern kingdoms, which resulted in the decline of foreign traders at the port in the 11th century AD. The second Chera Dynasty was subjugated by the combined forces of the Pandyas and Chola kingdoms. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara was the last great Chera king, after whose death in the early 14th century, the kingdom was divided into thirty small warring principalities.
The most powerful of which was the Zamorin of Kozhikode, who was constantly in a power struggle with the newly flourishing kingdom of Kochi that was becoming a major port after the flooding of the Periyar river in the Kochi region two centuries ago, which depositing silt and made it safer for boats and ships to anchor.
Until the 15th century, most of the spice trade was dominated by the Arab merchants who had the patronage of the Zamorins, but that would soon change after the arrival of Vasco.
Da Gama in Kozhikode in 1498.
The Portuguese set up a fort and factory after successful trade relations with Kozhikode. They wanted to gain total control from the Arab traders, but the Zamorins did not get influenced by the Portuguese. Naturally, the Portuguese took the opportunity of the rivalry between the Zamorins and the kingdom of Kochi and made alliances with Kochi and shifted their base of operations to Kochi, where they built forts to strengthen their hold. Still, here they were under constant attack by the Zamorin forces and were defeated in 1571 in the battle at Chaliyam Fort.
During this time period, The Dutch East India Company gained control of the Portuguese's spice trade but was always at battles with the Travancore Royal Family.
In the 18th century, most of now Kerala was annexed up to Cochin by the then Travancore King Sree Anizham Thirunal Varma.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the British East India Company had control over Kerala either directly or under Suzerainty, by taking much of north through Tipu Sultan or forging alliances with Kochi in 1791 and Travancore in 1795, and remained so until India gained Independence.
The state of Kerala was formed on 1st November 1956.