Transactions have been around since the Seventies to provide reliable information processing in automated information systems. Originally developed for simple ‘debit-credit’ style database operations in centralized systems, they have moved into much more complex application domains including aspects like distribution, process-orientation and loose coupling. The amount of published research work on transactions is huge and a number of overview papers and books already exist. A concise historic analysis providing an overview of the various phases of development of transaction models and mechanisms in the context of growing complexity of application domains is still missing, however. To fill this gap, this paper presents a historic overview of transaction models organized in several ‘transaction management eras’, thereby investigating numerous transaction models ranging from the classical flat transactions, via advanced and workflow transactions to the Web Services and Grid transaction models. The key concepts and techniques with respect to transaction management are investigated. Placing well-known research efforts in historical perspective reveals specific trends and developments in the area of transaction management. As such, this paper provides a comprehensive, structured overview of developments in the area.