All living languages are subject to variation at all levels of organization. Some of this variation leads to language change if larger groups of speakers start giving preference to a specific innovation. In this contribution we survey work that traces the diachronic variability at the level of language use, a field of research that is called historical pragmatics. After outlining some of the specific data problems that historical investigations of pragmatic variation have to deal with, we provide an overview of historical pragmatic work on specific periods, on diachronic change and on synchronic variation in earlier periods. Finally, we introduce the concept of “pragmatic variable” and discuss various methodological and theoretical problems.