The first known settlement of Dorset was by Mesolithic hunters, from around 8000 BC and Dorset's high chalk hills have provided a location for defensive settlements for millennia.
During their invasion of Britain the Romans landed in Dorset at Poole Harbour. At Abbotsbury on the Fleet the Romans quickly took the hill fort, Abbotsbury Castle, bloodlessly before moving on to Maiden Castle. Dorset has many notable Roman artifacts, particularly around the Roman town Dorchester and very little of this evidence has been destroyed. The county was initially part of Saxon Wessex, with the first record of Dorset being in 841.
During the Middle Ages monasteries like Sherborne Abbey were the biggest power in Dorset. The Domesday Book documents many Saxon settlements and agriculture became the main way of life until the nineteenth century as the industrial revolution largely by-passed Dorset, which has remained largely rural to this day. Since the early 19th century, when going to the sea became popular amongst the middle and upper class Dorset's tourism industry has grown
During World War I and II Dorset, located on the English Channel, was both a target and important to the Royal Navy. Portland Harbour was an important Royal Navy base in both wars.
Famous people from Dorset include Alan Carr, Edmund Henderson, John Le Carre, Richard van der Riet Woolley and Thomas Hardy.