Unprecedental clarity has come to our understanding of genetic variation by the analysis of DNA sequences. It is not surprising that the new DNA technologies are leading to a resurgence of interest in population genetics. In this review, I discuss recent progress and future directions towards reconstructing the history of human populations. There is increasing consensus on a recent 'Out of Africa' origin of modern humans, which explains why the greatest fraction of genetic diversity is found within populations, rather than between them. The comparison of Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA data shows remarkable sex differences in geographic variation. The analysis of Neanderthal DNA has been a major breakthrough in the study of fossil DNA. Among major hopes for the future are application to polygenic diseases.