The movement was founded in the 1940s by Austrian pediatrician Karl König near Aberdeen, Scotland with his establishment there of a small residential school for children with special needs. It was König's view that every human being possessed a healthy inner personality that was independent of their physical characteristics, including characteristics marking developmental or mental disability, and the role of the school was to recognize, nurture and educate to this essential self. The communities' philosophy, anthroposophy, states that "a perfectly formed spirit and destiny belong to each human being." The underlying principles of König's Camphill school were derived from concepts of education and social life outlined decades earlier by anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Today there are about 100 villages world-wide, in twenty countries, mainly in Europe, but also in North America, South Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe..
The entire Camphill Movement takes its name from Camphill Estate in the Milltimber area of Aberdeen, Scotland, where the Camphill pioneers opened their first community for children with special needs in June 1940. Camphill Estate is now a campus of Camphill Rudolf Steiner Schools.
Botton Village received the Deputy Prime Minister's Award for Sustainable Communities in 2005; the award cited the community's dedication to the ethos of sustainability and mutual respect, as well as their concrete achievements in these areas. Camphill Rudolf Steiner Schools was noted in the HMI/Care Commission report for 2007 as meeting "very good" to "excellent" (sector-leading) standards, with special praise for the "quality of pupils’ learning experiences along with the planned approach to promote self esteem, communication and social skills. The school also holds Autism Accreditation from the National Autistic Society.
Ontario has two Camphill locations: Camphill Nottawasaga, a rural community for adults with several homes and workshops (woodwork, pottery, forestry and a vegetable garden). Camphill Sophia Creek provides residential workshops in an urban environment in Barrie, one hour north of Toronto. British Columbia also has two Camphill facilities: The Cascadia Society in North Vancouver, which provides residential home care and daytime activities in an urban setting. The Ita Wegman Association of BC in Duncan, operates Glenora Farm, a rural, agriculturally-based community for adults with special needs. Glenora is a biodynamic farm. In Quebec, Maison Emmanuel Centre Educatif, located in Val-Morin, Quebec (one hundred kilometers north of Montreal), serves about 20 adults and adolescents.