Before 1956, it was an administratively separate Coorg State, at which point it was merged into an enlarged Mysore State. In 2001 its population was 548,561, 13.74% of which resided in the district's urban centres, making it the least populous of the 30 districts in Karnataka.
The Haleri Kingdom, an offshoot of the Keladi Nayakas, ruled Kodagu between 1600 and 1834. When Linga Raja I of Haleri died, Hyder Ali imprisoned the royal family and took direct control of Kodagu. This enraged the Kodavas who took power back from Hyder Ali in 1782. In the same year, Hyder Ali died. In 1784, his son Tippu Sultan attacked Kodagu, while returning from Mangalore to Srirangapattana, his capital city. The Coorg capital of Madikeri was renamed to Zafarabad by the Sultan in the meanwhile. The Muslim descendants of the Kodavas who converted into Islam, after Tipu Sultan's army on various forays into Coorg are called Kodava Mappila.
In 1788, Dodda Vira Rajendra of Haleri, who had been taken prisoner, escaped and defeated Tippu and recovered his kingdom. In 1790 Dodda Vira Rajendra signed a treaty with the British, who promised to protect his kingdom against Tippu’s onslaught. In 1792 Kodagu became independent of Mysore once again. In addition to the kings' samadhis (tombs), samadhis were built for the Diwans. Samadhis were built for army chief Biddanda Bopu, who was the commander-in-chief for the army of Dodda Vira Rajendra, and his son Biddanda Somaiah. On the samadhi of Biddanda Bopu, there is a plate carved in Kannada praising him for his bravery shown in the wars fought against Tipu Sultan.
In 1834 the last of the Haleri Rajas Chikka Vira Raja fell out of favour with the British East India Company who then intervened by invading Kodagu. A short but bloody campaign occurred in which a number of British men and officers were killed. Near Somwarpet where the Coorgs were led by Mathanda Appachu the resistance was most furious. But this Coorg War came to a quick end when the Raja sent his Diwan Apparanda Bopu to surrender to the British and lead them from Kushalnagar into Madikeri. Thereafter Kodagu was annexed by the East India Company into British India, after deposing the Raja who was exiled. Apparanda Bopu and Cheppudira Ponnappa were retained as the Dewans of Coorg. British rule led to the establishment of educational institutions, introduction of scientific coffee cultivation, better administration and improvement of the economy.
Guddemane Appaiah Gowda along with many other freedom fighters from different communities revolted against the British Empire in an armed struggle which covered entire Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada. This was one of the earliest freedom movements against the British called sulliaSouth Kanara, 1799–1860 By N. Shyam Bhatt ( Amara Sulya Dhange formally called the 'Coorg Rebellion' by the British) started in 1837.http://www.thehindu.com/2004/10/31/stories/2004103102280300.htmhttp://www.hindu.com/2005/05/19/stories/2005051901540300.htmhttp://www.deccanherald.com/content/316458/account-uprising.htmlhttp://www.deccanherald.com/content/316455/fate-insurgents.html
The district is bordered by Dakshina Kannada district to the northwest, Hassan district to the north, Mysore district to the east, Kasaragod district in west and Kannur district of Kerala to the southwest, and Wayanad district of Kerala to the south. It is a hilly district, the lowest elevation of which is above sea-level. The highest peak, Tadiandamol, rises to , with Pushpagiri, the second highest, at .
Kodava language is the spoken language native to Kodagu. Are Bhashe, a dialect of Kannada language, is native to Sulya in Dakshina Kannada. Both use Kannada script for literature.K S Rajyashree, Kodava speech community : An ethnolinguistic study Less frequent are Tulu language speakers , Mogaveeras, Bunts, Goud Saraswat Brahmins.
Among other Kodava speaking communities are: the Heggades, cultivators from Malabar; the Kodava Nair, cultivators from Malabar; the Ayiri, who constitute the artisan caste; the Medas, who are basket and mat-weavers and act as drummers at feasts; the Binepatta, originally wandering musicians from Malabar, now farmers; and the Kavadi, cultivators settled in Yedenalknad (Virajpet). All these groups speak the Kodava language and conform generally to Kodava customs and dress.
Mangalorean Catholics, mostly descended from those Konkani Catholics who fled the roundup and, later, captivity by Tippu Sultan, were welcomed by Kodagu's king Raja Veerarajendra (himself a former captive of Tippu Sultan, having escaped six years of captivity in 1788) who realising their usefulness and expertise as agriculturists, gave them lands and tax breaks and built a church for them. Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians, Alan Machado Prabhu, I.J.A. Publications, 1999, p. 229
Two members of the legislative assembly are elected from Kodagu to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, one each from the Madikeri and Virajpet. Kodagu, formerly part of the Kodagu-Dakshina Kannada (Mangalore) constituency, is now part of the Kodagu-Mysore Lok Sabha parliamentary constituency.
Pratap Simha, from the Bharatiya Janata Party, represents Kodagu-Mysore Parliamentary constituency. Appachu Ranjan represents the Madikeri constituency while K. G. Bopaiah represents the Virajpet constituency; they are from the Bharatiya Janata Party.