Maku was the capital of a Kangarli Khanate one of numerous small, semi-independent Khanates that resulted from the breakup of the Safavid empire in the 17th century.
The city is well-known in Bahá'í history for its fort where the Báb had been exiled to and imprisoned for nine months. At this fortress Mullá Husayn, the first Disciple of the Báb, arrived on Náw-Rúz of the year 1848 to see the Báb.
In ancient times the region of Maku was a part of Lesser Media and its name itself may be derived from the Persian word Madkuh meaning "the Mountain of the Medes". Medes were one of the ancient Iranian tribes.