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The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies

- the research arm of the Department of Architecture

Studying at Cambridge


History of Building Construction

Construction History 1 Construction History 2 Construction History 3

Dr James W. P. Campbell MA DipArch PhD FSA RIBA IHBC

Studies in the History of Building Construction

The history of building construction or building history has formed a major theme in the output of the Martin Centre over the last 10 years. Dr James W.P. Campbell is Chairman of the Construction History Society. His doctoral work looked at the development of structural carpentry in seventeenth century England and was followed by a AHRC research grant that looked at the development of brickwork in the same period. In 2006 he helped Cambridge host the Second International Congress on Construction History and he has been on the scientific panel of that and all subsequent congresses. 

Over the years the Martin Centre as produced great number of studies in this field (see publication list below) and has a growing number of PhD students.

What is Construction History?

Architectural history has traditionally looked at finished buildings. It has given less attention to the methods used to construct them. Studies in the history of building construction look at the methods used to construct buildings in the past and the way these affect the building form. They typically work from a combination of archaeological surveys and in-depth archival research. The history of building construction includes (but is not limited to) the study of building regulations; building structures and the history of the understanding of building structures and structural mechanics; book and publishing on building construction; contracts and building accounts; supply and use of materials; the economics of building contracting; the development of construction firms; guilds and craftsmen; and the influence between countries of different building techniques and methods of procurement.

Conferences and Summer Schools

The Cambridge Architecture hosted the Second International Congress on Construction History in 2006. It is hosting the First National Conference of the Construction History Society in April 2014. The school was involved in founding the Erasmus funded European Construction History Summer schools which took place in Cambridge (Ch.ess 2011), Brussels (Ch.ess 2012 )  and Munich (Ch.ess 2013 ).


Cambridge offers a number of routes for studying the history of buulding construction. For those without a prior qualification in architecture or architectural history the best starting point is the MSt in Building History a part time course which is specifically tailored to teach the necessary research skills. For those wanting a full time course there is the MPhil in Architecture (by Research) a one year supervised research project on any relevant subject resulting in a thesis. For those wanting to transfer to the subject from architecture the MPhil in History of Art and Architecture in the History of Art department is also recommended. Students who get sufficiently high marks on any of these courses may be allowed to proceed to a PhD

Consultancy work

Graduates and researchers can carry out consultancy work through the Cambridge Historic Buildings Group which carries out commissioned historical surveys of existing buildings.

PhD Students (current)

Yiting Pan

Miao Li

Wendy Andrews

Karey Draper


PhD students (completed)

Nicholas Bill




James W.P. Campbell, Building St Paul’s (London: Thames & Hudson, 2007) ISBN 978-0-500-34244-2 (176 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, Brick: A World History (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003) ISBN-0-500-34195-8 (320 pages).

Translated into seven other languages as follows:

Portuguese Edition:

James W.P. Campbell, Historia Universal do Tijolo (Caleidoscopio: 2005), ISBN 972-8801-75-0 (320 pages).

Spanish Edition:

James W.P. Campbell, Ladrillo: Historia Universal (Blume: 2004), ISBN 84-9801-013-6 (320 pages).

Hungarian edition :

James W.P. Campbell, Ategla: Vilagtotenete  (Kussuth Kaido, 2004), ISBN 963-09-4566-5 (320 pages).

French edition:

James W.P. Campbell, L’Art et L’Histoire de la Brique Batiments Privés et Publics du Monde Entier (Citadelles & Mazenod, 2004), ISBN 2-85088-208-9 (320 pages).

German Edition:

James W.P. Campbell, Backstein: Eine Architekturgeschichte – Von Den Arfangen Bis Zur Gegenwart (Knesebeck, 2003) ISBN 3-89660-189-X (320 pages).

Dutch Edition:

James W.P. Campbell, Baksteen: Geschiedenis- Architecturr- Technnieken (Thoth  & Lannoo: 2003) ISBN 90-6868-338-1 (320 pages).

Italian Edition:

James W.P. Campbell, Il Mattone e la sua storia: 8000 anni di architettura (Bolis Edizioni: 2003) ISBN 88-7827-116-0 (320 pages).


Conference Proceedings

Malcolm Dunkeld, James W.P. Campbell, Hentie Luow, Robert Thorne, Michael Tutton, (editors) Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Construction History (Cambridge: Construction History Society, 2006), jointly edited with seven others, ISBN 0-7017-0203-6, ISBN 0-7017-0204-4, & ISBN 0-7017-0205-2, 3 Volumes (3471 pages). 

Articles and Papers

James W.P. Campbell, “The First Complete List of All the Models Made for the Construction of St Paul's Cathedral, London 1675-1720”, R. Carvais, A. Guillerme, V. Negre, & J. Sakarovitch (Eds.), Nuts and Bolts of Construction History, (Paris: Picard, 2012) 3 vols., Vol. 1 (pp. 173-183), ISBN 978-2-7084-0929-3.

James W.P. Campbell, “Introduction [including a biography of Henry Adams]” for the facsimile edition of H. Adams, Adams' Building Construction (Shaftsbury: Donhead, 2011),  ISBN 978 1 873394 93 9 (11 pages).

 James W.P. Campbell, “Christopher Wren: Scientist, architect and engineer” in Kenneth Powell (ed.), The Great Builders (Thames and Hudson, 2011), pp. 51-59, ISBN 978-0-500-25179-9 (8 pages)

James W.P. Campbell,  “Wren, architectural research and the history of trades in the early Royal Society” in Jonathan Mallinson (ed.), Architecture, Cultural History, Autobiography (SVEC: 2008), ISBN, 978-0-7294-0934-6, pp. 9-27 (19 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “The Construction of the New Cathedral” co-author with Robert Bowles, in Derek Keene, Arthur Burns and Andrew Saint (eds), St Paul’s: the Cathedral Church of London 604-2004, (London: Yale University Press, 2004), ISBN 0-300-09276-8, pp. 207-219 (13 pages, large format).

James W.P. Campbell, Entirely revised entries for Francis Price and William Salmon in C. Matthew, B. Harrison et al. (eds.) New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [DNB] (OUP: 60 vols., vol. 45, pp. 290-291 (1 page) & vol. 48, pp. 735-736 (1 page).

James W.P. Campbell, "Building a Fortune: The Finances of the Stonemasons Working on the Rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral 1675-1720." Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Construction History. 2009.

James W.P. Campbell, “Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Building Notebook”, Construction History, 20 (2004 [appeared 2006]), ISSN 0267-7768, pp. 21-44 (24 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “The Finances of the Carpenter in England 1660-1710: a Case Study on the Implications of the Change from Craft to Designer-Based Construction”, in Simonetta Cavaciocchi (ed.), L’Edilizia Prima della Rivoluzione Industriale. Secc.XIII-XVIII (Prato: Instituto Internazionale di Storia Economica “F.Datini”, 2005) ISBN 88-00-72237-7, pp. 313-346 (34 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “Between Archaeology and Architectural History: Studying Bricks and Carpentry”, in Peter Draper (ed.) Current Work in Architectural History: Papers read at the Annual Symposium of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2004, (London: Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, 2005), pp.64-70 (7 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “The Duties of a Seventeenth-Century Bricklayer”, British Brick Society Information, 90 (February 2003) ISSN 0960-7870, pp. 14-15 (2 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “The study of bricks and brickwork in England since Nathaniel Lloyd” in Proceedings of the First International Congress on Construction History, edited by Santiago Huerta (Madrid: Instituto Juan de Herrara, 2003), pp. 479-489, reprinted in the Construction History Society Newsletter, no. 66 (June 2003), pp. 31-38 (8 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “Robert Tatersal – the Eighteenth-Century Bricklaying Poet”, British Brick Society Information, 90 (February 2003) ISSN 0960-7870, pp. 20-26 (7 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “Sir Christopher Wren and the Development of Structural Carpentry in the Seventeenth Century”, Architectural Research Quarterly, vol 6, no.1 (2002), ISSN 1359-1355, pp. 49-66 (18 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “Seventeenth-Century Bricklayers’ Contracts: Wren’s City Churches”, British Brick Society Information, 87, (February 2002) ISSN 0960-7870, pp. 10-21 (12 pages) reprinted in the Construction History Newsletter, No. 64 October 2002, pp. 7-12 (6 pages, large format).

James W.P. Campbell, "The Carpentry Trade in Seventeenth-Century England", Georgian Group Journal, XII, (2002), ISSN 0963-1070, pp. 215-237 (23 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “More on Pug Mills”, British Brick Society Information, 89 (November 2002) ISSN 0960-7870, p. 17 (1 page). 

James W.P. Campbell, “The Manufacture and Dating of English Brickwork 1600-1720” with Andrew Saint, Archaeological Journal, no. 159 (2002), ISSN 0066-5983, pp. 170-193 (24 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “The Myth of the Seventeenth-Century Pug Mill”, British Brick Society Information, 86, (December 2001) ISSN 0960-7870, pp. 7-8 (2 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “A Bibliography of Works on Brick published in England before 1750” (with Andrew Saint), Construction History, 17 (2001), ISSN 0267-7768, pp. 17-30 (14 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “Naming the Parts of Post-Medieval Roof Structures”, Vernacular Architecture, 31 (2000) ISSN 0305-5477, pp. 45-52 (7 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “Almshouse Chapel, Gamlingay”, Church Archaeology, 2 (1998), ISSN 1366-8129, pp. 55-56 (2 pages).

 James W.P. Campbell, “Opening the Door on Bricks”, Country Life, 28 February 2008, pp. 74-79 (6 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “A Brief History of Architectural Ceramics”, in Keramiek en architectuur (Colloquium on Architectural Ceramics)  (Hertogenbosch, Netherlands: Europees Keramisch Werkcentrum, 2004), pp.17-27 (11 pages). 

James W.P. Campbell, “Viewpoint: the Joy of Bricks”, Brick Bulletin, June 2004, p.13 (1 pages).

James W.P. Campbell, “Brick”, SPAB Cornerstone (formerly SPAB News), 25, 2 (June 2004), pp.34-36 (3 pages)