Games similar to modern team handball have historically been played in many different cultures around the world. We do for instance know that the ancient Greeks and Romans played a type of handball, and handball was also played by the Inuit in Greenland and the French in Europe as early as the Middle Ages. By the 19th century, handball was played in countries such as Ukraine (gandbol), Denmark (håndbold), Germany (torball), Slovakia (hádzaná) and Czech Republic (házená). The team handball game of today was codified at the end of the 19th century in northern Europe: primarily in Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
The first written set of team handball rules was published in 1906 by the Danish gym teacher, Holger Nielsen from Ordrup grammar school, north of Copenhagen. The modern set of rules was published in 1917 by Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz, and Erich Konigh from Germany. After 1919 these rules were improved by Karl Schelenz. The first international games were played under these rules, between Germany and Belgium by men in 1925 and between Germany and Austria by women in 1930. In 1926, the Congress of the International Amateur Athletics Federation nominated a committee to draw up international rules for field handball. The International Amateur Handball Federation was formed in 1928 and the International Handball Federation was formed in 1946.
Men's field handball was played at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. After 1936, field handball was no longer played at the Games, except as a demonstration sport in 1952 in Helsinki. Indoor handball was presented for the first time at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The introduction of women’s handball to the Games took place in 1976 in Montreal. Between 1938 and 1966 both forms of handball were played at separate World Championships. The IHF organised the men's indoor World championship in 1938 and every four (sometimes three) years from World War II to 1995. Since 1995 the competition has been held every two years. The women's World championship has been held since 1957.