Sukhothai, meaning the Dawn of Happiness, was a town founded in the 13th century on the fringe of the Khmer empire. The exact year is unknown, but according to the Fine Arts Office it was between 1238 and 1257. Founded by Phokhun Si Intharathit, it was the first truly independent Thai (Siamese) Kingdom after defeating the Khmers. Sukhothai enjoyed a golden age under their third king, King Ramkhamhaeng, who was credited with creating the Khmer-derived Thai alphabet which is essentially the same as that in use today. He also laid the foundation for politics, the monarchy and religion, as well as expanding its boundary of influence. Sukhothai was later ruled by many kings. The province is most famous for the historic city of Sukhothai, the capital of the Sukhothai kingdom. It is located about 12 km from the modern New Sukhothai city. Not far from Sukhothai are the Si Satchanalai historical park and the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park. Both were cities within the former Sukhothai kingdom and of the same time period.
The province was at first known as Sawankhalok; it was renamed to Sukhothai in 1939.