The earliest Bamileke kingdoms were formed during the sixteenth century, as a result of a complex dynamic conquest, ruse, and shifting allegiance when population movements in Adamoua pushed the “pre-Tikar” Ndobo into the Bamileke plateau. Succession disputes, the search foe new hunting grounds, and demographic pressure led to the emergence of the new kingdoms from the first core polities. The number, size, and shape of Bamileke kingdoms continued to change until European colonization, when interkingdom warfare was curtailed and the limits of territories were frozen at borders partly determined by the colonizers. This history of shifting borders, alliances, and the influx of refugees from neighboring kingdoms makes each Bamileke kingdom a political composite of diverse peoples owing allegiance to the king and the established royal institutions.
During the precolonial era, the Bamileke fought wars among their constituent kingdoms as well as with the neighboring Nso and Bamoun. Relations among kingdoms included economic exchange and corporation as well as territorial belligerence. German expeditions into Bamileke territory in 1902 and 1904 found a rich and cultivated territory, maintaining multiple commercial relations as evinced by paths and markers.
The colonial era began on 12 July 1884, when coastal Duala chiefs signed a treaty with the German Empire. Colonial German penetration into the Bamileke highlands began in the 1890s and became increasingly important over the next decade. Between 1914 and 1916, Cameroon was conquered by French and British forces. France subsequently governed nearly all Bamileke Kingdoms under League of Nations mandate and, following World War II, under United Nations Trusteeship. Independence was achieved in 1960.Political steps towards independence, especially the outlawing of the trade union based union based Union des Population Camerounaises (UPC), led to civil war in the Bamileke region from 1958 through 1972. Bamileke refers to this as a time of troubles; others refer to it as the Bamileke rebellion. Both personal and political scars remain. The region continues under a nominal state of emergency. Popular discourse surrounding more recent political and economic turmoil in Cameroon makes reference to history of civil and interethnic strife.