Palaeohydrological research is a comparatively recent development. However, research undertaken has already demonstrated a significant multidisciplinary impact and shown how palaeohydrology can provide an important contribution to the study of global change. Although a considerable amount of exciting palaeohydrological research has been applied to particular areas, there has not previously been a systematic approach to research into the palaeohydrology of the Earth s surface. It was for this reason that a Commission was established by INQUA in 1991 on Global Continental Palaeohydrology. This volume provides the background to that exciting international research project and has been written to provide a basis for understanding the current state of research into the palaeohydrology of the land surface of the Earth. It therefore gives a summary of the work achieved to date and of the research investigations currently taking place, together with an indication of the way in which palaeohydrological research relates to other global research programmes.