The settlement of Rinteln was founded about 1150 on the northern bank of the Weser. Later, in 1235, the village of Neu-Rinteln ("New Rinteln") was founded on the southern bank. It is the origin of the today's town, since the northern village was abandoned in 1350 due to the plague. The village grew to a fortified town, that served as a southern stronghold of the counts of Schaumburg.
From 1621 until its dissolution in 1810 during the Westphalian rule under Jérôme Bonaparte, Rinteln was the seat of a university. When Schaumburg was divided in 1640, Rinteln became the capital of the eastern part, that retained the name "Grafschaft Schaumburg hessischen Anteils. The Eulenburg in Rinteln became the seat of the counts. Rinteln remained the capital of the county and later of the district, until it was merged with the neighbouring district of Schaumburg-Lippe in 1977.