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Dr James Campbell MA DipArch PhD (Cantab) RIBA IHBC FSA

Dr James Campbell, MA DipArch PhD (Cantab) RIBA IHBC FSA

Senior University Lecturer (Department of Architecture)

Fellow of Queens' College

Director of Studies at Queens' College

Office Phone: 01223 332970


Dr James Campbell is an architect and architectural historian working on the area broadly termed Material Culture. He has practised as an architect in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the United States. He and Frank Salmon together formed the MSt in Building History, a course in the Faculty run jointly with English Heritage.

Dr Campbell is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Chairman of the Construction History Society. He is Director of Studies and Fellow in both Architecture and History of Art in Queens’ College.

He has appeared on a number of television and radio programmes including Divine Designs (Channel 5), Modern Marvels (the History Channel), Making History (Radio 4), Ancient Megastructures (National Geographic Channel), the Today Programme (Radio 4), Robert Elms show (Radio London), The One Show (BBC 1) and Excess Baggage (Radio 4). His programme for The Essay (Radio 3) on the architecture of Robert Hooke was featured on Pick of the Week (Radio 4).

Research Interests

Dr Campbell's research is broadly in the field of Material Culture. He looks at the development of objects in the world and our relationship to them. His research focuses on three main areas:

1) construction history;

2) seventeenth- and eighteenth-century architecture (particularly Wren, Hawksmoor and Soane)

3) the history and development of libraries.

His interest in the seventeenth-century started with his doctoral thesis which looked at Wren and development of seventeenth-century carpentry. This resulted in number of articles on carpentry and an AHRC-funded Post Doctoral post looking at seventeenth-century brickwork.  This in turn led to his first book, Brick: a World History(2003), an overview of the research that has been carried out on brick in building construction through the ages, produced in collaboration with architectural photographer Will Pryce. When it was released it was featured as Guardian ‘book of the week’ and has become the established work on the subject. It is currently available in nine languages and has been released in a new edition in 2016. He has written and lectured widely on the history of brickwork.

His interest in seventeenth-century building construction and Wren also led to his second book, Building St Paul's  (2007) which provides a concise introduction to the seventeenth-century building world. 

His third book, The Library: a World History (2013) is the first book to tell the story of library buildings through the ages from the beginning of writing to the present day. Richly illustrated again with pictures by Will Pryce, it was chosen by reviewers in both the Evening Standard and Spectator as one of their books of the year. The first print run of 10,000 copies sold out in 2 months. It has since been reprinted several times in expanded editions and been translated into Chinese, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese. It is published by Thames and Hudson in the UK and University of Chicago Press in the United States. 

In 2014 he edited Staircase: History Repair and Conservation with Michael Tutton and Jill Pearce. This book, published by Routledge, brought together writers from many disciplines, Dr Campbell contributing chapters on the history of the staircase in Britain and the safety of stairs. He has also edited six volumes of proceedings for conferences on construction history. He is currently working with Michael Tutton on a sequel to the staircase book this time on Doors and he is cataloguing part of the collection of Soane's drawings at the Soane Museum. He is Principal Investigator on a project on the world-wide historical development of water infrastructure and fountains, funded by the Seear fund at Queens'.

Current PhD Students 

Jana Schuster, Boughton House (2017- present)

Karin Templin, The Development of the Mansion Block in 19th Century England (2016-present)

Completed PhD Students

Karey Draper, Wartime Huts: The Development, Typology and Identification of Temporary Military Buildings in Britain 1914-1945 (2013-2017)

Amy Boyington, The Role of Women in Eighteenth-Century Architectural Design (2014-2017)

Wendy Andrews, The Cowtan Order Books, 1824-1938: An Analysis of Wallpaper and Decorating Records and Their Use as Historical Sources (2013- 2017)

Yiting Pan, Colonial Architecture in late 19th and early twentieth century Shanghai  (2011-2016)

Magdalini Makrodimitri, Heating Historic Churches (2009-2017)

Nicholas Bill, The Development of the Engineering of Timber Railway Bridges in the 19th century (2010-2013)

Applications for PhDs

Dr Campbell welcomes applications from any potential PhD students interested in researching any aspect of the history of building construction or the history of library design from all parts of the world. Unless they already hold a relevant research degree, successful applicants will normally be required to sit for an MPhil or MSt in the first instance (either an MPhil by Research or on the History of Architecture MPhil in the History of Art department or the MSt in Building History) on the successful completion of which they will be allowed to proceed to the PhD. Interested applicants should contact the Graduate Office: