The original Université de Bordeaux was established by the papal bull of Pope Eugene IV on 7 June 1441 when Bordeaux was an English town. The initiative for the creation of the university is attributed to Archbishop Pey Berland. It was originally composed of four faculties: arts, medicine, law, and theology. The law faculty later split into faculties of civil law and canon law. A professorship in mathematics was founded in 1591 by Bishop François de Foix, son of Gaston de Foix, Earl of Kendal.
This university was disestablished in 1793, and then was re-founded on 10 July 1896.
In 1970 the university was split into three universities: Bordeaux 1, Bordeaux 2, and Bordeaux 3. In 1995, Bordeaux 4 split off from Bordeaux I.