This article is one of a series of background articles for the general reader explaining how different financial markets and other parts of the financial system work. It surveys the development of interest rate futures within the context of the internationalisation of world financial markets. It provides a basic description of the various types of interest rate futures and their traditional uses and users as well as statistics of trading by exchanges, geographical areas and instruments. The article notes some of the economic factors underlying the growth of interest rate futures and seeks to provide some explanations for the successes and failures of individual futures contracts. Recent innovations with respect to the instruments themselves, and recent technological advances in trading mechanisms are also discussed.