The village church, dedicated to St James the Great, dates to the Saxon period. Staple is one of the few places in Kent that does not appear in the 1086 Domesday Book, because it was appendant to Adisham, which lies to its southwest but is separated from it by the hundred and parish of Wingham. Together Adisham and Staple formed the Hundred of Downhamford. Staple is situated near the end of an arm of the Wantsum Channel, all that survives of which is the Durlock stream (possibly derived from the Celtic *duro- "settlement" and *loccu- "lake, pool", attesting the presence of the former channel). Until the late Middle Ages this channel provided access to the sea; one reason that Staple was chosen as an export location.
Staple is a Middle English word, signifying an official market for purchase of goods for export; it derives from Anglo-Norman estaple, "market-place". The "staple" of Staple was wool, exported to the Low Countries. The 'Statute of Acton Burnell' (1283) removed the Staple from Calais to fifteen appointed places in England, Ireland and Wales. The royal appointment decreed that 'All wool for export should be gathered at the Staple, if not the selling there.' In the reign of Edward III, the Staple was removed to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey; its return nine years later was occasioned by the greater ease with which export to Calais was effected by Staple's proximity to Sandwich. The Staple system suffered a long slow decline, and was abolished in 1617. Other export products from Staple included leather and vellum.
From 1916 to 1948 the village was served by Staple railway station on the East Kent Light Railway, north of the village at Durlock Bridge. In the Second World War, the station was used as a munitions dump, and a large-calibre rail-mounted gun was stabled there.
There are two gentlemen's seats at Staple, Crixhall and The Groves. The oldest established vineyard in East Kent was established at Staple, but is no longer in use. Since 1993 Barnsole Vineyard has been operating in the village.
Staple was originally an ancient parish in the Downhamford Hundred. Between 1894 and 1934 it was part of the Eastry Rural District. Since 1974 the area is covered by the non-metropolitan Dover District.