Known centuries ago as the Tierra de Camarines, the province is distinctly Spanish-founded settlement. Its name having been derived from "camaronchones" or "camarines", a Spanish word for "kamalig" referring to small nipa or bamboo-made huts by the natives.
In 1574, Governor General Guido de Lavezarez referred Camarines Sur to the King of Spain as Los Camarines, after the abundance of camarins-rice granaries - which were conspicuous features of the area.
Spanish colonizers later subjugated its people and denominated the area into two distinct aggrupations. The southern portion comprising the area south of the present town of Camalig (in Albay), Sorsogon, the islands of Masbate and Catanduanes, and the area, which is now Partido in present day, then called “Partido de Ibalon”. The northern, upper portion, which included from the present day Camalig town in Albay, and all towns of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte, was called “Partido de Camarines”.
Partido de Camarines was partitioned into Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte in 1829, and thereafter underwent fusion, annexations and re-partitions until March 19, 1919 when two provinces, jointly called Ambos Camarines, were finally separated with their present boundaries by decree of the First Philippine Legislature.
The Philippine Revolution started in Ambos Camarines when Elias Angeles and Feliz Plazo, Filipino corporals in the Spanish Army, sided with revolutionist and fought the local Spanish forces on September 17, 1898. Governor Vicente Zaidin capitulated to the revolutionist on the following day. With the arrival of General Vicente Lukban, the revolutionary government in the Bicol Region was established.
The American forces occupied the Bicol Peninsula in January 1900. In March of the same year. General John M. Bell was made the military governor of the southeastern Luzon. Civil government was finally established in Ambos Camarines in April 1901.
In 1942, Japanese forces entered and occupied Camarines Sur.
At the outbreak of World War II. Guerilla units were organized by Wenceslao Q. Vinzons that waged underground operations against the Japanese troops stationed in Camarines Sur. After the capture of Vinzons on July 8, 1942, the guerilla movement was carried on by Lieutenant Francisco Boayes. In April 1945, Camarines Sur was finally liberated from the Japanese invaders against the combined Filipino and American troops in 1945.
On March 8, 1942, three months after Japanese Imperial Forces landed in Legazpi and Naga City, the famous Tangcong Vaca Guerilla Unit (TVGU) was organized in San Nicolas, Canaman with Juan Miranda as the Commanding Officer, Leon Aureus as the Executive Officer and Elias Madrid as the Finance Officer. Among the numerous Canamanons who joined-up soon afterwards either in the unit’s intelligence or combat components were Jose and Antonio Madrid, Mamerto Sibulo, Andres Fortaleza, Marcos Severo, Damaso Avenilla, Federico Crescini, Nicolas Vargas, Venancio Begino, Eugenio Ragodon, Juan Pachica, Santiago Amaro, Jose Gervas, Pedro Angeles, Aproniano Lopez, Andres Alzate, Modesto Sanchez, Blas Alcantara, Andres Aguilar, Florencio Frondozo, Alfredo de la Torre and Flaviano Estrada.
In 1945, Filipino and American troops along with the Bicolano guerrillas, liberated Camarines Sur from the Japanese forces towards the end of WW II.
Naga City, the former capital of Camarines Sur, was founded in 1573 as “Nueva Caceres” – namesake of the Province in Spain and among the original five royal cities of the colony. It was designated as the Province’s Capital by virtue of Philippine Legislative Act No. 2711 approved on March 10, 1917 until June 6, 1955, when Pili, the adjoining town was declared the Provincial Capital by virtue of Republic Act 1336 up to the present time.