Luminescence dating plays a major role in reconstructing environments of Earth’s recent geological history. Since its proposal in 1953, luminescence dating has developed into a versatile geochronological technique that can be applied to material up to 2 million years old. Luminescence dating has many novel applications because it can utilize the most ubiquitous minerals in the Earth’s crust (quartz and feldspar) to determine the timing of sediment burial or exposure. The technique can be applied to grain sizes from silt to boulder, and to sediments that occur in a wide range of settings, e.g. deserts, rivers, lakes, glaciers, caves. This issue discusses the latest technical developments of luminescence dating and the key scientific discoveries that it has facilitated over the last few decades.