Architectural history is a discipline which records, studies and interprets architecture, its forms, purposes and evolution. Architecture has been observed and recorded since ancient times. In terms of the study of Western architecture study must begin in Mesopotamia at the founding of civilization. Often, architectural history is derived only from the Graeco-Roman period onwards, and when using this period as a starting point confines itself to a history of styles and formal changes. A typical starting point in this approach would begin with classical authors such as Herodotus, writing in the mid 5th century BC, and move through the periods of history using works such as Vitruvius' books rewritten and recorded by Palladio.
One major difference in the purpose of the history of architecture to history in other disciplinary groups is that this history is often used in the practice of contemporary architecture and its study influences what is thought to be good in a given age; in addition, understanding architectural history as a history which deals with the formal remains of the past - buildings - as a way of understanding the society and culture they represent can prove a useful and enriching approach when working as a contemporary architect or looking at ancient, modern and contemporary buildings as a user or visitor. They allow an architect or a non-professional to begin to consider a building or city as more than a visual phenomenon, and therefore to have a more fundamental and culturally inclusive approach to architecture than an approach based purely on taste.