This paper describes the response of explosives to stress and impact and in particular the mechanisms of `hot-spot' production. Samples in the form of single crystals, powder layers, pressed pellets, gels, polymer bonded explosives (PBXs) and propellants have been studied. Techniques used include a drop-weight facility with transparent anvils which allows photography at microsecond framing intervals, an instrumented drop-weight machine, a miniaturized Hopkinson bar system for high strain rate property measurement, laser speckle for studying the deformation and fracture of PBXs, an automated system for analysing speckle patterns and heat sensitive film for recording the positions and temperatures of hot spots. Polishing and staining methods have been developed to observe the microstructure of PBXs and failure during quasi-static loading. Ignition, when it occurred, took place at local hot-spot sites. Evidence is discussed for a variety of ignition mechanisms including adiabatic shear of the explosive, adiabatic heating of trapped gases during cavity collapse, viscous flow, friction, fracture and shear of added particles and triboluminescent discharge.