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The Clans were originally the self-exiled remnants of the Star League Defense Force army, after Stefan Amaris brought about the downfall of the Star League. General Aleksandr Kerensky led his forces beyond the Inner Sphere because he believed that a terrible war was brewing between the Great Houses; a war that even the once mighty Star League army was powerless to stop. The exiles evolved into a warrior-based civilization that would sweep through the Inner Sphere like a whirlwind 250 years later.

After months of deliberation, Aleksandr Kerensky convened most of the Star League forces still loyal to him (over 80%) and departed the Inner Sphere. After years of traveling, the massive flotilla of Star League refugees came upon five marginally habitable worlds, the so-called Pentagon Worlds (due to their near-pentametric relation to each other). There Kerensky's followers tried to forge life as they knew it once again, and for a time it seemed the Star League would still exist, far away from Terra, although this was not to be. Within a year, cracks were beginning to form along faction lines and soon the Pentagon Worlds were at war: an eerie parallel to the carnage unfolding concurrently in the Inner Sphere, a conflict now known as the First Succession War. At this, Kerensky prepared to gather the precious few troops still loyal to him, when he suffered a massive heart attack and as his dying wish, Kerensky left the reigns of the Exile Star League in the hands of his son, Nicholas. Kerensky's son took 800 of his best warriors and 600 civilian families away to a planet known as Strana Mechty ("land of dreams" in Russian) where he forged a new order. This order was known as the '''Clans'''. Those who possessed exceptional military skill became the breeding stock of what would become a hereditary ruling class. They embodied the pinnacle of combat prowess, and were put through a variety of competitive and selective processes with each generation to produce virtual super-soldiers. They were charged to protect the weak and powerless, but primarily to take back the Pentagon Worlds and, some day, the Inner Sphere where they, the Clans, would reinstate the glorious Star League.
In the beginning there were twenty clans, each with forty warriors. Over time, three clans were Absorbed (Clans Widowmaker, Mongoose, Burrock), two were Annihilated (Clans Wolverine and Smoke Jaguar), one was Abjured (Clan Nova Cat), another was split in two (Clan Wolf), and two eventually merged with Inner Sphere nations (Clans Ghost Bear and Snow Raven, respectively). Today, the Clans are almost wholly unrecognizable, compared to their forebears.
Though Clan history speaks of twenty Clans and the Eight Hundred Bloodnamed, Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht encountered information on board the Wolf Clan flag vessel, ''Dire Wolf'' that lead him to suspect the number may have been as low as six hundred or greater than eight hundred. It is possible that the practices of Reaving and the ilKhan's right to primogeniture were later attempts to retcon this information. It is also likely that the Annihilation of Clan Wolverine and Absorption of Clans Widowmaker and Mongoose altered the Bloodcount.