It is part of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of 2000, the population was 55,606. Its county seat is Tarboro.
The county was formed in 1741 from Bertie County. It was named for Richard Edgcumbe, a Member of Parliament from 1701 to 1742 and a lord of the treasury, who became 1st Baron Edgcumbe in 1742.
In 1746 part of Edgecombe County became Granville County; in 1758 another portion became Halifax County; and in 1777 yet another part became Nash County. In 1855 the formation of Wilson County from parts of Edgecombe County, Johnston County, Nash County, and Wayne County reduced Edgecombe to its present size, with a minor boundary adjustments.
Edgecombe County was historically home to the Tuscarora Indians. Although most migrated north to New York in the 18th century, descendents of the Tuscarora still live in some parts of the county.