The results of recent geochemical investigations of several island arc -- marginal basin systems in the Scotia Sea area and in the western Pacific are outlined. Marginal basins in different stages of evolution are represented, from those in the initial stages of formation to those with an extensive and multiple history of back-arc spreading. Some are completely intraoceanic, others have developed at continental margins. Basalts erupted at back-arc spreading centres seem to be as geochemically varied as those from normal mid-ocean ridges, and record evidence for similar processes of partial melting, fractional crystallization and magma mixing in their genesis. They appear to have been derived from mantle sources with incompatible trace element characteristics ranging from 'depleted' to 'enriched', but with the 'enriched' mantle sources being sampled during the earlier stages of back-arc spreading. Submarine back-arc basalts are more vesicular than their normal ocean ridge equivalents, and their corresponding glasses have higher water contents. This, together with other geochemical features such as the higher ratios of lithophile to high field strength elements in some back-arc basalts, suggests that a component from the subducted slab may be involved in their petrogenesis. The chemistry of the corresponding arc volcanics is described in relation to the subduction and extensional history of marginal basin development. In intraoceanic arcs the early stages of arc magmatism are dominated by the eruption of large volumes of island arc tholeiites and subsidiary high-Mg andesites. In the Mariana region, after the initial volcanic arc is split and separated by back-arc spreading, the later frontal arc volcanics have calc-alkaline characteristics. Basalts erupted during the early stages of back-arc spreading more commonly have arc-like geochemical features when the marginal basin has developed through splitting of a calc-alkaline volcanic arc. The secular variation in the geochemistry of the arc volcanics may be related to the progressive development of a lithophile element enriched mantle source beneath the arc. This source contributes to the basalts produced during the early stages of arc rifting and back-arc spreading. Ophiolite complexes which represent marginal basin floor may well carry these arc-like geochemical features.