A mission for the Xhosa tribespeople living in the valley of the Tyume River was established in November 1824 by the Glasgow Missionary Society. It was twice abandoned and re-established and eventually the town of Alice grew as a commercial and farming centre close to the mission.

The town was named after Princess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria.

Fort Hare

The town's claim to fame is that it houses Fort Hare, the first black university in Africa. It is where most African leaders studied, including former president Nelson Mandela, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda. Fort Hare, near Alice, was built in 1847 at the end of the Xhosa War of the Axe.

The University College of Fort Hare was established in 1916.

Theological seminary

There is also a theological seminary with four colleges representing the Anglican, Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations.

The district produces wool, mohair, citrus, tobacco, timber, livestock and milk.

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