Type 1 diabetes is a multifactorial disease resulting from a complex interplay between host genetics, the immune system and the environment, that culminates in the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. The incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in children under the age of 5 (Gepts in Diabetes 14(10):619-613, 1965; Foulis et al. in Lancet 29(5):267-274, 1986; Gamble, Taylor and Cumming in British Medical Journal 4(5887):260-262 1973). Genetic predisposition, although clearly important, cannot explain this rise, and so, it has been proposed that changes in the 'environment' and/or changes in 'how we respond to our environment' must contribute to this rising incidence. In order to gain an improved understanding of the factors influencing the disease process, it is important, firstly, to focus on the organ at the centre of the illness-the pancreas. This review summarises our knowledge of the pathology of the endocrine pancreas in human type 1 diabetes and, in particular, explores the progression of this understanding over the past 25 years.