The lands of Blackfaulds, on which Calton now stands, originally formed part of the lands of the Archbishopric of Glasgow, but were annexed to The Crown in 1587. In 1705 the owner, John Walkinshaw, began to feu the lands of Blackfaulds (part of the Barrowfield estate) on which the old village of Calton was built, and in 1817 a charter was granted, erecting Calton into a Burgh. During the area's time as an independent burgh, there were four Provosts of Calton:
The area became known for its weaving industry. On 30 June, 1787, a meeting of weavers was held on Glasgow Green. Their wages had dropped because of the increased importation of cheaper foreign textiles. Most of the workers decided to take strike action, although some accepted lower wages and carried on working. The dispute came to a head on 3 September, 1787: when violence erupted after some striking weavers tried to seize materials from weavers who had carried on working.
The military were called in and a detachment of the 39th Regiment of Foot opened fire on the demonstrators. Six of the men killed at the scene were locally called 'martyrs' and some of them were buried in the Calton Cemetery off the main London Road. The families of the men could not afford a headstone although, a century later, a memorial was raised to commemorate their actions.
Calton is an area of considerable poverty and multiple deprivation. In January 2006, a report into poverty in The Scotsman newspaper stated that "a child born in Calton... is three times as likely to suffer heart disease, four times as likely to be hospitalised and ten times as likely to grow up in a workless household than a child in the city's prosperous western suburbs". Calton has the lowest male life expectancy in Scotland. A BBC Scotland news report on 13 February 2006 pointed out that, partially due to poor diet, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, life expectancy in Calton is lower than in some areas of Iraq or the Gaza Strip. A news report in the 27th October 2006 edition of the Metro newspaper gave the average lifespan of a person living in the Calton area as 53.9 years against a city average of 69 years and the Scottish average of 78. A 2008 World Health Organisation report contrasted Calton's male life expectancy, reported as standing at 54, with that of nearby Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, at 82.
Most of the affordable housing is owned by Housing Associations with a high percentage of tenants on housing benefit (For example Thenew Housing Association has approximately 75% of tenants on housing benefit). Due to the revival of Glasgow city centre as desirable place to live, leading to rising demand for land and consequent overspill into surrounding areas, the Glasgow Green area has once again become a place for new luxury building development -- as once it was in the 19th century.
The area has experienced sectarian tensions for generations; it is a predominantly Catholic area (due to Irish immigration) although the Orange Order have a particular foothold here and there are also Irish Republican organisations present. This is reflected, albeit much declined in modern times, in gang and sectarian related graffiti, with the main gang being the Calton Tongs. In the 1960s, the Calton was known locally as Tongland (and still is by some), prominently marked out as such by graffiti. Tongland appears in Gillies MacKinnon's 1995 movie Small Faces. The gangs' power over the area and their decline in the 1970s is described in Handstands in the Dark.