Islam came to the Lamaholot long before it became established on Java and elsewhere in Indonesia. There were a mosque and many Muslims on Solor in 1559, when the Jesuit Father Baltasar Diaz visited the island. The Portuguese Dominicans established a mission on Solor in 1561 and a fort in 1566. Before the arrival of the Portuguese, the Lamaholot were influenced by the Hindu Javanese. Larantuka, Flores, was said to have been conquered by a Majapahit fleet in 1357, and Solor appears in the Negarakertagama as a Majapahit dependency. Some Lamaholot recognized the suzerainty of the Sultan of Ternate in the sixteenth century. The Dutch captured the Solor fort in 1613, and thereafter different Lamaholot areas were allied loosely with either the Portuguese or the Dutch until the Portuguese ceded their rights in the Solor Archipelago in 1859. The pattern of alliances with the Europeans in the seventeenth century and later roughly corresponded with indigenous feuding between villages denominated by Demonara (today simply Demon), who tended to be associated with the Portuguese, and Pajinara (today Paji), who were often Muslim and who in some cases maintained treaty ties with the Dutch. The Dutch established effective direct control through a series of military actions at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth.
The Lamaholot are linguistically and culturally close to the Sikanese to the west and the Kédang to the east. There are three main dialects of Lamaholot: west (on Flores close to the border with Sika), central (east Flores, Adonara, and Solor) and east (Lembata). Bahasa Alor, spoken in enclaves on the northern coast of Pantar and the western coast of Alor, is at least partially intelligible to Lamaholot speakers.