Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture - not the friendly unassuming architecture of the vernacular but the uniquely strange and exciting buildings put up by the great and powerful, ranging from huge houses to gem-like pavilions and lodges designed for feasting and hunting - is a phenomenon as remarkable as the literature which accompanied it, the literature of Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney, Marlow, Jonson, Campion and others. Forty years after adventuring into this world in his first book, 'Robert Smythson', in which he discussed one family of mason-architects and the great houses with which they were connected, Mark Girouard has returned to the subject to cover the whole rich field in detail. In this beautiful and fascinating book, Girouard discusses social structure and the way of life behind it, the evolution of the house plan, the ferment of excitement aroused in English patrons and craftsmen as they learnt about the classic Five Orders and the buildings of Ancient Rome from publications and engravings, the surprising wealth of architectural drawings which survive from the period, the inroads of foreign craftsmen who brought new fashions in ornament with them, but also the strength of the native tradition which was creatively integrated with the 'antique' style. Behind the book is a vivid consciousness of the European scene, and the different ways in which different countries reacted to new influences yet did not abandon their native traditions. Italy, France, central Europe and above all the Low Countries provide the background, and England was influenced by all of them. But the principal argument of the book is the individuality of the English achievement. Girouard's pioneering work on Elizabethan architecture, then an unfashionable period, has helped inspire an increasing number of architectural historians to venture into the field. His new book benefits from their researches and publications, but is essentially a product of new research and travel on his part. The results are displayed with his own unique sense of style, and are fired by the excitement which the architecture of the period still generates in him.