Histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3) is the catalytic component of NCoR/SMRT corepressor complexes that mediate the actions of transcription factors implicated in the regulation of B-cell development and function. We crossed conditional knockout mice with knockin animals to delete in early progenitor B cells. The spleens of mice were virtually devoid of mature B cells, and B220CD43 B-cell progenitors accumulated within the bone marrow. Quantitative deep sequencing of the Ig heavy chain locus from B220CD43 populations identified a defect in recombination with a severe reduction in productive rearrangements, which directly corresponded to the loss of pre-B cells from bone marrow. For B cells that did show productive rearrangement, there was significant skewing toward the incorporation of proximal gene segments and a corresponding reduction in distal gene segment use. Although transcriptional effects within these loci were modest, progenitor cells displayed global changes in chromatin structure that likely hindered effective distal recombination. Reintroduction of wild-type Hdac3 restored normal B-cell development, whereas an Hdac3 point mutant lacking deacetylase activity failed to complement this defect. Thus, the deacetylase activity of Hdac3 is required for the generation of mature B cells.