The history of the region is largely influenced by the neighbouring cities of Chemnitz and Zwickau. In medieval times the town of Glauchau, today the capital of the district, was the centre of the county of Schönburg-Glauchau. The East German government attempted to turn the region into a huge industrial complex, which is the reason for the dense population.
The district was established in 1994 by merging the former districts of Glauchau and Hohenstein-Ernstthal. In August 2008, as a part of the district reform in Saxony, the districts of Zwickauer Land, Chemnitzer Land and the urban district Zwickau were merged into the new district Zwickau.