Effects of flow in the lower continental crust have often been ignored in the geomorphological literature on the growth of topography during the Quaternary. However, the ability of the lower crust to flow in response to horizontal pressure gradients, caused by lateral variations in the depth of the base of the brittle upper crust, results in two mechanisms for the growth of topography, which can occur either separately or in combination. First, an increase in the rate of erosion in a region will result in a progressive reduction in the depth of the base of the brittle layer, which will drive inflow of lower crust to beneath the region, which will increase the crustal thickness and thus the altitude of the Earth’s surface. It is important to note that this mechanism can increase the mean altitude of the Earth’s surface, not just the altitude of summits formed of erosion-resistant rock or other features that are not eroding, which will rise faster than the surrounding eroding landscape. Second, repeated cyclic surface loading by ice sheets or fluctuations in global sea-level will cause net flow from areas of relatively cool lower crust to beneath areas of warmer crust. This process will thus usually result in net flow of lower crust from beneath offshore areas to beneath land areas, thinning the crust and increasing the bathymetry offshore but adding to the crustal thickness and so uplifting the land surface onshore. Although these two processes have different mechanisms, the time scale over which both operate is governed by the time required for heat diffusion, resulting from lower-crustal flow (which is concentrated near the Moho), to affect the position of the base of the brittle layer. As a result, the uplift responses for both processes can be very similar. This means that to resolve the physical cause of uplift at any locality requires knowledge of the regional conditions before uplift began, not just evidence (such as river terrace sequences) from during the course of uplift. This study illustrates the complexities and practical difficulties that can result from these issues, using case studies of localities that have been modelled in detail. It also points out that, although the ability to carry out quantitative calculations involving lower-crustal flow is new, the idea that such flow provides a general mechanism for the growdi of topography was first suggested in the early 19th century, but was later abandoned - apparently mistakenly. An early Middle Pleistocene increase in uplift rates is widely-recognised from river terrace records, and typically marks a transition from broad valleys in areas of low relief to narrower, more deeply incised gorges. It is suggested that the isostatic response to cyclic surface loading, caused by the growth and decay of continental ice sheets and the associated sea-level fluctuations, is the main cause of this change, following the increase in scale of ice sheet development from oxygen isotope stage 22 (~0.9 Ma) onwards. The less well resolved earlier increase in uplift rates, evident in some river terrace records at ~3 Ma, is more likely to result from the isostatic response to increased rates of erosion linked to the contemporaneous deterioration in climate.