Ryan Booz shares some thoughts on triggers:
By design, plain ANSI SQL is declarative (“hey database, this is the data I want, you figure out how to do it”), not procedural (“Hey database, I want this data and I want you to retrieve it like this”). Early on, there wasn’t a standard design for how to add on additional procedural-like features, although that later came with the definition of SQL/PSM sometime in the mid-90s.
However, through the late 80s and most of the 90s, database vendors were trying to keep pace with very quickly changing requirements and needs in the database space. Even though triggers weren’t officially added until the SQL:99 standard, databases like Oracle had already released their own procedural languages and features. Triggers may have been deferred in the SQL-92 standard, but the Standards team couldn’t ignore them (or the complexity that triggers add to transactional consistency).
Click through for a bit more background, some of the pros and cons of triggers, and a few cases where triggers can make sense.