Over the last 10 years a series of developments have led to a new understanding of what controls the variations in lithosphere strength, structure and evolution that produce dramatic contrasts between the geological histories of oceans, ancient shields and young orogenic belts. Those developments involve a wide range of observations from a great diversity of geological, geophysical and geochemical disciplines that, none the less, provide a mutually consistent and coherent overall picture. This paper summarizes, in one place, the essential stages in the evolution of the relevant ideas and observations that have led to this situation.

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