Along the lakes, Vaud was inhabited in prehistoric times. Later, the Celtic tribe of the Helvetii inhabited the area. The tribe was defeated by Caesar's troops in 58 BC and as a consequence the Romans settled the area. In 27 BC the state of Civitas Helvetiorum was established around the capital of Avenches (Aventicum). Between the 2nd and the 4th century the area was repeatedly invaded by Alemannic tribes, and in the 5th century the Burgundians occupied the area. The Merovingian Franks later replaced the Burgundians and in 888 the area of the canton of Vaud was made part of the Carolingian Empire. In 1032 the Zähringens of Germany defeated the Burgundians, however, themselves were succeeded in 1218 by the counts of Savoy. It was only under the counts of Savoy that the area was given political unity, establishing the Barony of Vaud.

As the power of the Savoys declined at the beginning of the 15th century the land was occupied by troops from Bern and by 1536 the area was completely annexed. Reformation was started by co-workers of John Calvin like Pierre Viret. In 1723, Major Abraham Davel led a revolt against Bern, however, did not succeed and was subsequently beheaded. Later, inspired by the French Revolution, the Vaudois drove out the Bernese governor in 1798 and declared the Lemanic Republic. Vaud nationalists like Frédéric-César de La Harpe had called for French intervention in liberating the area and French Revolutionary troops moved in, taking over the whole of Switzerland itself in the process and setting up the Helvetic Republic. Under Napoleon I, it became the canton of Léman. Unrest about the abolition of feudal rights and taxes led to increased discontent, which culminated in the revolt of the Bourla-papey in Spring 1802, closely followed by the Stecklikrieg that brought the end of the entire Helvetic Republic.

In 1803, Vaud joined the re-installed Swiss confederation and remained a sovereign canton since. In the 19th century, the canton of Vaud was an outspoken opponent of the Sonderbund Catholic separatist movement, which in 1847 led to a military intervention of Swiss Federal troops under General Henri Dufour in what is called the Sonderbund War.

Swiss History Timeline - Vaud
Vaud coat-of-arms