Patients with focal diencephalic, temporal lobe, or frontal lobe lesions were examined on various measures of remote memory. Korsakoff patients showed a severe impairment with a characteristic 'temporal gradient', whereas two patients with focal diencephalic damage (and anterograde amnesia) were virtually unimpaired on remote memory measures. Patients with frontal lobe pathology were severely impaired in the recall of autobiographical incidents and famous news events. Patients with temporal lobe pathology showed severe impairment but a relatively 'flat' temporal gradient, largely attributable to herpes encephalitis patients. From recognition and cued recall tasks, it is argued that there is an important retrieval component to the remote memory deficit across all the lesion groups. In general, the pattern of performance by the frontal lobe and temporal lobe groups was closely similar, and there was no evidence of any major access/storage difference between them. However, laterality comparisons across these groups indicated that the right temporal and frontal lobe regions may make a greater contribution to the retrieval of past episodic (incident and event) memories, whereas the left temporal region is more closely involved in the lexical-semantic labelling of remote memories.