Domes offer unique opportunities to measure or infer the characteristics of magmas that, at domes and elsewhere, control explosive activity. A review of explosive activity associated with historical dome growth shows that: 1. (1) explosive activity has occurred in close association with nearly all historical dome growth; 2. (2) whole-rock SiO2 content, a crude but widely reported indicator of magma viscosity, shows no systematic relationship to the timing and character of explosions; 3. (3) the average rate of dome growth, a crude indicator of the rate of supply of magma and volatiles to the near-surface enviornment, shows no systematic relationship to the timing or character of explosions; and 4. (4) new studies at Arenal and Mount St. Helens suggest that water content is the dominant control on explosions from water-rich magmas, whereas the crystal content and composition of the interstitial melt (and hence magma viscosity) are equally or more important controls on explosions from water-poor magmas. New efforts should be made to improve current, rather limited techniques for monitoring pre-eruption volatile content and magma viscosity, and thus the explosive potential of magmas. ?? 1983.