The area was occupied by the Poles since the 10th Century, being ruled by Silesian Piasts until Poland's partition in 1795. The city was founded by the Poles in the 19th Century, and gained city status in 1865 under Prussian rule. It became part of the Second Polish Republic following populist uprisings throughout the Silesian region between 1918-1921.
The city flourished due to large mineral deposits in the nearby mountains. Extensive city growth and prosperity depended on coal mining and steel industries, which took off during the Industrial Revolution. But recently, due to economic reforms there is a shift away from heavy industry, and towards smaller businesses. Severe damage to the natural environment occurred during communist times, but recent changes in regulations and procedures have reversed much of the harm that was done.
During 1953-1956 named Stalinogród, which was a kind of homage to the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin by the totalitarian, communist authorities.