It may seem that there are so many books published on the subject of architecture and architectural history that there is little need for another one. Rather than writing another history of architecture, our aim is to show that history all around us is there for us to explore and enjoy. Some buildings we may like, others we find most uncongenial. That is part of the challenge and this book is about understanding buildings, whether we like them or not. This means not just the way they look, or their construction and materials, but how they came into being, and how they were and are used. To understand the complexities of the built environment we need to know something about the decisions that led to building developments, the economic and political context of patronage, the role of developers and the social and cultural context of building use. Studying the past enables us to understand today more clearly. It frees us from becoming impotent prisoners of the present and enables us to see the possibilities of choice. This applies to any area of history, including architecture and the built environment. Architecture touches on many disciplines and this book adopts an holistic approach to the subject. It is about raising questions, rather than giving answers, and our aim is accessibility, for architecture is part of everyone’s lives.