This region was inhabited by numerous tribes: Triballi, Moesi, Thracians and Timachi. It falls under Roman rule in the year 29 B.C. and during the Migration Period the Avars, the Huns and Slavs passed through these parts (those who settled here were called the Timočani, and the first traces of them originate from the year 818). Numerous sites are witnesses of the life in this area from the prehistoric period until now: prehistoric settlements (Bаrаnicа, Vаluge, Škodrino polje, Kаdijski krst etc.), ancient and late ancient sites (Timacum Minus near village Rаvnа, Bаrаnicа, Grаdište, Koželj etc.), Early Christian churches (Kаlnа, Štrbаc, Bаrаnicа, near village Rаvnа etc.). From the mediaeval period there is Koželj settlement and churches in villages Donjа and Gornjа Kаmenicа, built in 14 and 15 century. The settlement of Gurgusovac was mentioned for the first time in Turkish censuses from 15 century. Since 1396 it was under Turkish rule until 1833 when it was annexed to Serbia ruled by Prince Miloš. After the Turks remained one building which was the symbol of the Turkish reign – the Tower of Gurgusovac – a palisade military fortification which was turned into a prison – a notorious casemate famous as “the Serbian Bastille”, which served to the Kаrаđorđević dynasty as a dungeon for political prisoners.
By order of Prince Miloš the tower was burnt down and the town, in his honour, changed its name into Knjаževаc (‘knjaz’ – prince) on 17 Jnuary1859. In the period 1875-1877 the town was again occupied by the Turks for a short time. In 1883, after the liberation wars, owing to the unsolved political and economic issues, the Timok Rebellion started.
The immediate cause for the rebellion was the seizure of weapons from the people’s army ordered by King Milаn Obrenović, and its leaders were Aleksа Acа Stаnojević, Gаvrа Aničić, Ljubа Božinović and others. From 1913 during the Balkan Wars, this region was very often attacked by Bulgaria, and in 1915 it was even occupied. The Serbian army and a French cavalry brigade liberated Knjаževаc on 15 October 1918. During the Second World War these parts were occupied by the Germans (in 1941), until the final liberation on 10 October 1944. After the liberation a rapid development of the town started. The mines around the town were reopened, big industrial plants were created instead of former small craft shops, and all that led to big migrations of the population from villages to the town.
Two rivers, numerous bridges, camping places and boats on the river in the very centre of the town, the hospital, the reading room, the church, the high school, numerous craft shops and taverns were the reasons for this small town to be called “Little Venice” or “Little Paris” by rare passers-by – travel writers, adventurers and spies. Famous Le Corbusier enjoyed the charm of this Serbian small town during his travels to the East. The municipality of Knjаževаc is fourth in Serbia by size and occupies 1,202. km2. Today there are 86 settlements (85 of which are villages) and about 38,000 inhabitants according to 2002 census. The city itself has about 18,000 inhabitants. Until recently Knjаževаc was one of the two industrial wonders in Serbia. A large number of economic giants at one point of time employed more workers than the number of people who lived in the town. In Knjаževаc there was the “IMT” Small Tractors Factory and it was famous as “the small tractors town”, “Džervin” produced widely known wines and juices, “Brаnkа Dinić“ introduced the “Brаndini Style“ in clothes, “Ledа“ Shoe Factory made footwear for the European market and “Tinа“ produced furniture of excellent quality and design. Today the majority of these factories is closed or they operate on a reduced scale.