How has the construct of ageing, and attitudes towards it, changed over time? How have human beings from various historical epochs, cultures, and perspectives viewed ageing? What impact have these views about ageing had on individuals and our broader society? ‘Ageing, a brief history’ considers these questions and shows that from the ancient world to the modern there have been conflicting views on ageing. It examines historical trends in longevity and lifespan, and factors influencing life expectancy and ageing. We are now at a point in history where the number of individuals over the age of 65 will surpass those aged 5 and under, across the developed and developing world.