The seat was created in boundary changes in 1983, as part of an expansion of Northern Ireland's constituencies from 12 to 17, and was predominantly made up from the old Londonderry constituency. From further revisions in 1995 (when it lost parts of the district of Strabane to the West Tyrone constituency), and until the 2008 revision, it covered exactly the same area as Derry city.
Prior to the 2010 general election the transfer of Claudy and Banagher wards to East Londonderry were approved through the passing of the Northern Ireland Parliamentary Constituencies Order in 2008.
There had been much speculation that with the gradual retirement of John Hume from politics, the SDLP vote might collapse. In the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly election, the SDLP lost 11.5% of the vote and were only narrowly ahead of Sinn Féin. Hume's retirement led to many questioning whether Mark Durkan, Hume's successor as leader, could hold onto the seat. However in the 2005 general election he did so. The decline in the Unionist vote suggests that some Unionist voters tactically voted for Durkan.
Durkan retained the seat in 2010. This seat also gave the Alliance Party their worst share of the vote in Northern Ireland, polling just 0.6% of the votes.