Introduced in the 18th century, hip disarticulation was considered to be one of the most radical operations performed for trauma or disease of the lower limb. The high morbidity and mortality associated with it ensured that it was a rarely performed procedure. It is fortunate that it remains extremely uncommon to the present day. Since the first successful hip disarticulation was described, a number of important advances have occurred. General medical care has improved dramatically and the development of anaesthesia, analgesics, antibiotics and blood transfusions has resulted in greatly decreased morbidity associated with this dramatic operation. This review on the history of hip disarticulation outlines the surgical evolution of the operation, the indications for its use and the techniques used. It draws on the early experiences and preferred techniques of the surgeons of the 19th century, with some discussion on the methods employed to reduce intraoperative haemorrhage. Further development of techniques in the 20th century is also described together with discussion on the evolution of hindquarter amputation.