Ten years in the making, A History of Architecture ranges from the first prehistoric environments on record to the most recent examples of urban design. A landmark work of impressive scope, the book is enhanced by 700 halftone illustrations and 150 drawings especially prepared by architect Richard Tobias. Kostof's range of study includes not only the monumental religious, governmental and upper-class structures around which architectural history has usually been written but also the diversity of ordinary domestic, rural, and urban buildings, and landscapes which surround them. Moreover, Kostof evaluates Western achievement in the context of contemporary cultures elsewhere. Thus he duscusses the high points of imperial Rome along with Buddhist stupas and Han palaces, compares medieval Florence with medieval Cairo, and introduces Inca and Aztec cities as the Spanish conquistadores would have seen them. The author's premise is that buldings are conditioned by the social, economic, and political frame of their time; in this sense, Kostof concludes, the history of architecture can be considered an aspect of the history of human institutions. "Architecture, in the end," he writes, "is nothing less than the gift of making places for some human purpose."