Landkreis Emsland is a district in Lower Saxony, Germany named after the river Ems. It is bounded by (from the north and clockwise) the districts of Leer, Cloppenburg and Osnabrück, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (district of Steinfurt), the district of Bentheim and the Netherlands (provinces of Drenthe and Groningen).
For a long time the region of the Emsland was extremely sparsely populated, due to the fens on both sides of the river. Small villages were established in medieval times along the river and on the Hümmling. In the 13th century the bishops of Münster gained control over the region; the Emsland remained property of the bishop until 1803, when the clerical states were dissolved. It came under rule of Prussia and Arenberg, but after the Napoleonic Wars the Congress of Vienna decided to hand the territory over to the Kingdom of Hanover. The Duchy of Arenberg continued to exist as a fief of the Hanoverian kings. When Hanover was annexed by Prussia (1866), the dukes were deposed soon after (1875).
The now Prussian Province of Hanover was subdivided into districts in 1885; four districts were established on the territory of what is now the Landkreis Emsland. The districts were merged in 1977 to form the present district.
In 1950 a governmental plan for the development of Emsland was adopted. Its aim was to turn the region into an industrial location. This was accomplished by draining the fens and establishing projects like the test track of the maglev "Transrapid" and several large shipyards such as the Meyer-Werft in Papenburg. Although the Landkreis Emsland lost much of its original character, some areas retain their natural character, for example the Hümmling.