The inhabitants of the department are called Maralpins, but are usually referred as Azuréens (inhabitants of the Côte d'Azur).
was created by Octavian as a Roman military district called maritimae Alps in 14BC, and became a full Roman province in the middle of the 1st century AD with its capital first at Cemenelum (today Cimiez, a suburb north of Nice) and subsequently at Embrun. At its greatest extent in AD 297, the province reached north to Digne and Briançon.
A first French of Alpes-Maritimes existed in the same area from 1793 to 1814. Its boundaries differed from those of the modern department, however. In 1793 Alpes-Maritimes included Monaco (Port Hercules) and San Remo (San Rème), but not Grasse which was then part of the of Var. The département was subdivided into the following arrondissements and cantons (situation in 1812):
Its population in 1812 was 131,266, and its area was 322,674 hectares.
The department was reconstituted in 1860 when the county of Nice was annexed by France. It included the county of Nice as well as the previously (at least nominally) independent towns of Menton and Roquebrune, and the arrondissement of Grasse in the department of Var.
In 1860 Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, one of the architects of Italian unity with the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, negotiated support for Napoleon III in exchange for Savoy and the County of Nice. The annexation was confirmed on 15 and 16 April 1860 by 30,712 male electors enrolled in the 89 communes of the County of Nice who, for the first time, had universal male suffrage by plebiscite. The "Yes" vote for reunification with France was 83.8% of registered voters and 99.2% of votes. The new department of Alpes-Maritimes consisted of the former County of Nice, divided into an Arrondissement of Nice and an Arrondissement of Puget-Théniers (both arrondissements existed in the former Department (1793-1814)), and a portion of the Var department which formed the Arrondissement of Grasse. However, the County of Nice did not include Tende and La Brigue which were incorporated into France in the Treaty of Paris in 1947.
The Arrondissement of Puget-Théniers was removed for purposes of economy in 1926 and attached to Nice: the department has not since had two districts.
In 1947, in accordance with the Treaty of Paris and as a referendum result favourable to their attachment to France, the communes of Tende and La Brigue (also parts of communes in the high valleys of Vésubie and Tinée: part the commune of Isola) which had been Italian since 1860, were attached to the department.