The department of the Hautes-Alpes was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790 with the southeastern part of the old province of the
It was divided in four districts: Briançon, Embrun, Gap and Serres, with Chorges as its capital but during that same year the capital was moved to Gap.
In 1800, with the creation of the arrondissements in France, the four districts were changed into three arrondissements: Gap, Briançon and Embrun.
On 10 September 1926, the arrondissement of Embrun was eliminated.
After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the department was occupied by troops from Austria and of the Kingdom of Sardinia.
During World War II, the department was occupied by the fascist Italy.