Games similar to Bandy have been played for thousands of years. The earliest known record is this 4000-year old Egyptian drawing from a tomb at Beni Hasan in the valley of the Nile close to Minia in Egypt. It is unclear if the round object is a ball or a ring, but the shape of the sticks is very familiar. Other similar ancient sports are the South central Asian "Polo" (believed to initially have been without the horses), Japanese "Kachi"/"Dakyu" and the Aztec "Cheuca" where bones from deer were used to hit wooden balls
Another documented bandy-like sport was played in Greece around the time of the battle at Marathon. It is believed that the Romans imported this game and that it later became their "Paganica" which was played with curved stick and a leather ball filled with feathers. As the Roman Empire expanded the game is likely to have spread, in some form or another, across Europe and the Mediterranean area.
In the Middle Ages, a number of ball games are described in Northwest Europe. "Knattleikr" in Iceland is described as early as late in the 9th century and also appears in many of the Icelandic legends. It seems that Knattleikr was brought to Iceland by immigrants from the British Isles as it had large similarities to the games played there, Hurling, Shinty and Bandy. These games share large similarities and may very well stem from the same game, possibly influenced by the Roman Paganica. As in Iceland, the Irish legends often have heroes who display their skill with their hurley (hurling stick). In Scotland, the closely related Shinty was played by, among others, King Alexander I (died 1124).
Bandy, which was the English relative of Hurling and Shinty, has its oldest record is a 13th century painted glass window in the Canterbury cathedral where a boy is holding a curved stick in one hand and a ball in the other. This picture from a 14th century book of prayers is another early record of what looks like Bandy. Shakespeare also mentions Bandy in "Romeo and Juliet" - "The Prince expressly hath forbidden Bandying in the Verona streets".
The Welsh also played Bandy, or Bando, a word that is derived from the Teutonic word "bandja" meaning a "curved stick". A couple of historic Bando sticks can be found in the Welsh folk Museum and they show similarity to modern Bandy sticks as do these early Camans (Shinty sticks). Hurling, Shinty and Bandy have all been played on both grass and ice, but as the climate in Great Britain and Ireland is relatively mild the grass version dominated.
Other games with sticks and balls were played in Europe and one game that looks similar to Bandy is the Dutch "Kolv" which is pictured in many Dutch 16th and 17th century paintings. Kolv was however not a team sport and seems to have been very much like "Golf on ice". In Northeastern Europe, a number of winter games involving balls and sticks were played, such as Russian "Julas", "Kotol" and "Kubar".
"Bandy" and "Hockey" were used in parallel for the same sport, but today Bandy is played on ice and (Field) Hockey on grass. "Bandy/Hockey" was converted ("refined" if you're an ice-hockey fan, "perverted" if you're a Bandy fan) into "Ice-hockey" by the North Americans in the 1800's by shrinking the pitch, goals and reducing the number of players. Bandy has been played with both ball and puck, apparently only depending on what was at hand, but is now played with a ball since the beginning of this century.
The modern form of Bandy started to take shape in the 18th century and its heartland was the Fen district (Camebridgeshire and Lincolnshire). Records dating back to 1813 reveal that the village of Bury-on-Fen in England had a bandy team that went unbeaten for a hundred years (!). It took another century until the clubs agreed on the rules and the National Bandy Association was formed in 1891. Bandy was introduced into Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany in the early 1890's.
More information about the countries that are or have been playing Bandy is found via this click-able map. Apart from the more than 20 countries on the map, bandy has also received a preliminary introduction to China, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia.
The Bandy World Championships have been held since 1957 with Russia and Sweden dominating. Another major international tournament is the World Cup in Ljusdal, Sweden. This annual tournament is held in October with the best club teams from each country competing.
WORLD CHAMPIONS:1957 USSR, 1961 USSR, 1963 USSR, 1965 USSR, 1967 USSR, 1971 USSR, 1973 USSR, 1975 USSR, 1977 USSR, 1979 USSR, 1981 Sweden, 1983 Sweden, 1985 USSR, 1987 Sweden, 1989 USSR, 1991 USSR, 1993 Sweden, 1995 Sweden, 1997 Sweden, 1999 Russia.
All results from the World Championships are found here.
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS: 1974 Sandviken (Swe), 1975 Broberg (Swe), 1976 OLS Oulu (Fin), 1977 Broberg (Swe), 1978 Broberg (Swe), 1979 Edsbyn (Swe), 1980 Boltic (Swe), 1981 Boltic (Swe), 1982 Jenisej (USSR), 1983 Broberg (Swe), 1984 Jenisej (USSR), 1985 Boltic (Swe), 1986 Boltic (Swe), 1987 Västerås (Swe), 1988 Vetlanda (Swe), 1989 Västerås (Swe), 1990 Zorkij (Rus), 1991 Edsbyn (Swe), 1992 Sirius (Swe), 1993 Vetlanda (Swe), 1994 Västerås (Swe), 1995 Boltic (Swe), 1996 Boltic (Swe), 1997 Västerås (Swe), 1998 Falun (Swe), 1999 Hammarby (Swe).
A short description of the RULES of BANDY is found here.