The first document mentioning Borbeck dates back to 869, when Borthbeki, a small rural commune, was mentioned as one of nine communes around Essen Abbey which were liable to tax. In 1288, princess-abbess Berta von Arnsberg bought probably mortgaged parts of the region and built the predecessor of Schloss Borbeck. By the 14th century, Schloss Borbeck had become the favorite residence of the princess-abbesses, which came along with a rise of prestige for the region. In 1339, princess-abbess Katharina von der Mark had Borbeck's old Romanesque church modified so the abbesses and their entourage could adequately attend mass.
After the dissolution of Essen Abbey in 1803, Borbeck was occupied by France and became a French municipality in 1808. In 1815, following the Congress of Vienna, Borbeck came to Prussia and was declared the center of a new independent Bürgermeisterei, which also included several townships around Borbeck. The Year without a summer, 1816, brought the last famine to Borbeck, and recovery took at least until 1819. Industrialization reached Borbeck in the 1840s, and the opening coal mines attracted many unemployed people. On February 1, 1862, two of the aforementioned townships, Lipperheide and Lirich, which accounted for two-thirds (1,827 ha (4,514.6 acres)) of the total area of Borbeck, were excorporated and became parts of the new city of Oberhausen. The same happened with the townships of Altendorf, Frohnhausen and Holsterhausen, which formed the new Bürgermeisterei of Altendorf in 1874. Although having lost most of its land area and a good deal of its population, Borbeck, with a population of over 70,000 people, remained the largest administrative district in Prussia without town privileges. Prior to the excorporations, the population was over 100,000, which nowadays means that Borbeck would have been a Großstadt, i.e. a major city. During the negotiations regarding the incorporation of Borbeck in 1915, Bürgermeister Rudolf Heinrich managed to use the size of Borbeck to attain several concessions from Essen, such as the construction of a public indoor swimming pool if the new Stadtbezirk was to break 100,000 inhabitants again.
The suburban district Stadtberzirk IV Borbeck, amongst Borbeck-Mitte (~ 13,500 inhabitants, 3.19 km2 or 1.23 sq mi), also comprises the following boroughs:
Borbeck-Mitte, as the central borough of the district, offers several central institutions for the district, including a hospital, a local district court, a branch of the city's public library, as well as social welfare and employment offices and the aforementioned public swimming pool. The central pedestrian precinct features several mid-sized shops and a street market each Tuesday and Friday.
Borbeck-Mitte has a distinctive cultural life, mainly on personal initiative. Several church choirs exist, as well as six carnival and six sport-shooting associations and three amateur theater groups. The cultural historical society maintains a small museum and meeting place in the Alte Cuesterey near the central market place.