Harlington means "settlement by a pasture", it remained a rural village until the post-medieval period when there was agricultural development before mining at nearby Barnburgh.

Prehistoric and Romano-British activity in the Harlington area is indicated by field systems, tracks and settlements visible as cropmarks in the area to the south of Doncaster Road on aerial photographs. The village lies less than 1km to the south of Barnburgh, where archaeological evidence indicates extensive activity from the Neolithic period.

Place-name evidence indicates early medieval activity at Harlington, with the Old English elements ‘ling’ meaning pasture and ‘tun’ meaning a settlement. The area may have been granted to Roger de Busli, the lord of Tickhill, as part of the manor of Barnburgh following the Norman Conquest and Harlington Mill may occupy the site of a mill that was recorded in the 1086 Domesday survey. The village appears to have been a ‘ribbon development’ along a single street during the medieval period.

Harlington remained a rural village throughout the post-medieval period. New farmhouses were constructed during this period and many agricultural buildings of this date survive at sites such as Old Hall. Harlington’s commons were enclosed with those of Barnburgh in 1819.

Barnburgh Main Colliery opened to the north-west of the village in 1911 but, unlike in other parts of the Dearne Valley, did not lead to extensive housing development in the area. The Dearne Valley Railway opened at Harlington in 1912.