Abstract It is well known that the thermal history of a quartz sample influences the optically stimulated luminescence sensitivity of the quartz. It is found that the optically stimulated luminescence lifetime, determined from time resolved spectra obtained with pulsed stimulation, also depends on past thermal treatment. For samples at 20°C during stimulation, the lifetime depends on beta dose and on duration of preheating at 220°C prior to stimulation for quartz annealed at 600°C and above, but is independent of these factors for quartz annealed at 500°C and below. For stimulation at higher temperatures, the lifetime becomes shorter if the sample is held at temperatures above 125°C during stimulation, in a manner consistent with thermal quenching. A single exponential decay is all that is required to fit the time resolved spectra for un-annealed quartz regardless of the temperature during stimulation (20–175°C), or to fit the time resolved spectra from all samples held at 20°C during stimulation, regardless of annealing temperature (20–1000°C). An additional shorter lifetime is found for some combinations of annealing temperature and temperature during stimulation. The results are discussed in terms of a model previously used to explain thermal sensitisation. The luminescence lifetime data are best explained by the presence of two principal luminescence centres, their relative importance depending on the annealing temperature, with a third centre involved for limited combinations of annealing temperature and temperature during stimulation.