A rapid review is made of the history of malaria control, calling attention to differences between the evolution of the technical concepts, the formulated strategies and their implementation. Particular emphasis is placed on the discussion of the present situation of the world malaria problem and the difficulties faced by many endemic countries in adopting a malaria control strategy, based on primary health care, while their services are vertically organized for the performance of routines, which are irrelevant for disease control. The present malaria control strategy recognizes local variability, but it is possible to identify a limited number of types of situations, likely to respond to similar approaches. The definition not only of the control approaches but also of their conditions of applicability will become more precise as experiences are accumulated and adequately documented from different types of epidemiological situations. It is postulated that historical research on the malaria control and public health approaches, with proper attention being given to their socioeconomic and political context, in the countries which succeeded in controlling endemic malaria, will make an important contribution to such a definition.