*Editor's Note: The following column is just a theory. The views, events, and situations that I mention are not necessarily true. They are just ideas I have based on what I have seen in the various Seasons of Lost. Please do not take these as rumors or spoilers. But if they do turn out to be true, that would be kinda cool!
Since the beginning of the show, we've heard about these mysterious people who are unofficially called "The Others". Throughout the seasons, we have found out that the Others are not savages living on the Island. They are regular people, some of whom were brought to the Island for a purpose. They live in the former Dharama Barracks. They have relationships, friendships, and misfortunes. But we've also seen another side to them. They can be very hostile and evil, yet believe they are the good guys. In flashbacks, we've seen that the Others used to live in tents near very old monuments. But how did they get there? When did they get there? Who are the Others.
As of now, most of the history of the Others is pure speculation. We do know bits and peices of it, though. We know Eloise Hawking was once an Other, as was Charles Widmore. It was Ben who made Widmore leave. And the mysterious Jacob has to do with all this. So, this is what I think the history of the Others is.
The original Others were some Egyptian cult that came to the Island to build monuments and develop a mysterious civilzation. Jacob and Esau's fued carried over to the Egyptians, and caused every one of them to die. Jacob and Esau's fued would continue when the next Others arrived.
They arrived on the Black Rock, with non other than Richard Alpert as their captian. Richard eventually was approached by Jacob, and listened to what he said. Throughout the history of The Others, Richard has acted like an advisor, much like the Pope acted for many, many years. He has been their spiritual leader, and as leaders come and go, he is the constant. He never ages because he is the "son of Jacob" so to speak. He cannot die.
Eventually, all leaders fall. They grow weak or corrupt, which is the exact opposite of what Jacob is trying to prove to Esau. Jacob makes them leave. This continues and takes us right up to Ben. Jacob is intrigued by Ben, and wants him as thier leader. He soon loses interest in the man, and sets his eyes on John Locke. He tries to get Locke to the Island, and by doing so, must bring a whole lot of people to the Island in the process. Among them, Jacob choose people from the Others, as well as people he put on his list (Jack, Kate, Sawyer- don't remember everyone, that's why I need to rewatch the series!) as well as Walt. The ones he didn't want were killed during the crash, and the ones he eventually thought were not needed were killed.
Why did he need people? Jacob is creating an army to finally win the war with Esau. Which, in short means that those he likes are destined to become the Others. Anyone who ends up on the Island- through crashes, Dharma, or other ways- can have the power to become Others.
In short, The Others are not bad people at all. To be cliched, they are mearly misunderstood. The Others are just doing what Jacob wants. But still, there are so many unanswered questions. By the time Lost ends, we will find out who these mysterious people really are, and how they got to the Island.