In 2011, the 79th General Session of the World Assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the 37th Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Conference adopted a resolution declaring the world free from rinderpest and recommending follow-up measures to preserve the benefits of this new and hard-won situation. Eradication is an achievable objective for any livestock disease, provided that the epidemiology is uncomplicated and the necessary tools, resources and policies are available. Eradication at a national level inevitably reflects national priorities, whereas global eradication requires a level of international initiative and leadership to integrate these tools into a global framework, aimed first at suppressing transmission across all infected areas and concluding with a demonstration that this has been achieved. With a simple transmission chain and the environmental fragility of the virus, rinderpest has always been open to control and even eradication within a zoosanitary approach. However, in the post-1945 drive for more productive agriculture, national and global vaccination programmes became increasingly relevant and important. As rinderpest frequently spread from one region to another through trade-related livestock movements, the key to global eradication was to ensure that such vaccination programmes were carried out in a synchronised manner across all regions where the disease was endemic – an objective to which the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the African Union-Interafrican Bureau of Animal Resources, FAO and OIE fully subscribed. This article provides a review of rinderpest eradication, from the seminal work carried out by Giovanni Lancisi in the early 18th Century to the global declaration in 2011.