Although several monographs and reviews have appeared on individual polymers of this type, and their applications and other technical aspects have also been discussed, this is apparently the first book to deal with the physical chemistry of water-soluble synthetic polymers as a group. This collective survey enables their properties and behaviour to be compared, and to be correlated with their molecular structures for predictive purposes. However, this has made it necessary to critically re-appraise much of the earlier fundamental work, so that current discussion of more recent work can be put on ta proper basis. Thus, of the 1800 or so references cited, the middle two-thirds related to the twenty-year period centred on about 1968. Nevertheless, sufficient key recent references have also been included so that the existing ‘state of the art is delineated.