Plasma modelling is an exciting subject in which virtually all physical disciplines are represented. Plasma models combine the electromagnetic, statistical and fluid dynamical theories that have their roots in the 19th century with the modern insights concerning the structure of matter that were developed throughout the 20th century. The present cluster issue consists of 20 invited contributions, which are representative of the state of the art in plasma modelling and numerical simulation. These contributions provide an in-depth discussion of the major theories and modelling and simulation strategies, and their applications to contemporary plasma-based technologies. In this editorial review, we introduce and complement those papers by providing a bird's eye perspective on plasma modelling and discussing the historical context in which it has surfaced.