The University of Buckingham’s Master’s programme in the History of Western Architecture enables appropriately qualified students to undertake expertly supervised research in an area of European or American architectural history from the Renaissance to the end of the twentieth century.
Individual research topics are closely focused; but the approach of the course is to encourage students to investigate the broader cultural, intellectual, and social environments of which architecture is part, and, where appropriate, to consider questions of patronage, iconography, and interior as well exterior design.
Recent dissertations have surveyed, for example, the Baroque mural in English country house decoration; the Gothic Revival as exemplified by the architect Anthony Salvin; and the relationship between garden design and architecture in the course of the eighteenth century. The choice of subject area is ultimately the student’s own.
The MA is awarded solely on the basis of the dissertation (there are no ‘exams’), and the relationship between you and your supervisor is therefore at the heart of the course. The maximum length for the MA dissertation recommended by the School of Humanities is 25,000 words (or approximately 75 pages at line-spacing of 1.5), excluding notes, references, and bibliographies. Student and supervisor meet regularly on a one-to-one basis to discuss, plan, and review the dissertation as it develops through the year.
Defining a subject for research
Some students know from the outset the precise subject on which they intend to work. For most, however, the definition of a research proposal is usually a gradual process, with the student starting with a general area of interest, and then focusing on a more closely defined topic as a result of further reading and consultation, usually with the Course Director. Most students do not arrive at the final title of their dissertation until towards the end of the first Term, just before Christmas.
The Course Director is available to offer advice to prospective students who would like to discuss possible subjects for their research before they apply. He can be reached directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Seminar Programme 2022-23
Private research and supervision are complemented by a rich programme of seminars which give students direct access to some of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished scholars of the country house. These take place in St James’s, at the Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, in central London (see infra for further details).
The seminars are of course academic events, with a talk by a visiting expert; but they also have a social dimension, bringing research students and senior scholars together to discuss matters of common interest in an informal and congenial atmosphere. Each seminar starts at 6:30 pm, with an illustrated presentation by the visiting speaker and is followed by a 40-minute question-and-answer session. There is a break for drinks and then a seated dinner follows (three courses with wine) during which there is further questioning of the speaker and a general conversation about the topic in hand. (The cost of all dinners is included within the fee.)
Among the seminars offered in 2022-23 by the University that relate to the History of Western Architecture are the following:
Seminar dates 2022-23
- 15 November 2022 Simon Thurley ‘Country Houses of the Stuart Courts 1603-1685’
- 29 November 2022 Sophie Andreae ‘Sir Robert Taylor, Barlaston Hall and Danson Park: a Case Study’
- 10 January 2023 Jeremy Musson ‘The Architecture of Robert Adam’
- 24 January 2023 Rosemary Hill ‘The Earl and the Architect: Pugin and Lord Shrewsbury’
- 7 February 2023 The Earl of Devon ‘Powderham Castle: 600 Years of Social Purpose and Private Ownership’
Seminars and Dinners
Seminars and dinners take place at the Reform Club (above), 104 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5EW.
View the location on Google Maps. Nearest Tube Stations: Green Park and Piccadilly.
Tutorials usually take place at the University’s offices in Bloomsbury (51 Gower St, London, WC1E 6HJ) or can take place online if the student prefers.
In addition to the seminar programmes and students’ one-to-one meetings with their supervisor, the programme also offers specialist classes on thesis-writing, referencing, and on how to use archival and on-line research resources. For those who need to work with manuscripts (from the Tudor period and later), there is also a series of classes on palaeography (the reading of early handwriting) that will enable students to acquire fluency in the reading of manuscript sources.
Opportunities to take the MA research to PhD level
Students who wish to take their research further have the opportunity, at the end of their year of MA studies, to extend their studies to doctoral level. Where the topic and the related evidence is appropriate, students are permitted to treat their year of Master’s research as the first year of the three required for PhD study. If approved for ‘upgrading’ to doctoral study, they may submit their expanded dissertation for the PhD degree after a further two years of writing and research.
Dr Adriano Aymonino, Co-Director of the programme, is one of Britain’s leading historians of the Classical tradition, particularly in the eighteenth century. He has curated several exhibitions, including Drawn from the Antique: Artists and the Classical Ideal, held at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London in 2015. His book Enlightened Eclecticism, on the 1st Duke of Northumberland’s patronage of Robert Adam and others, will be published by Yale University Press in 2021. He is currently working on a revised edition of Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny’s Taste and the Antique, to be published in 2022; and on a critical edition of Robert Adam’s Grand Tour correspondence. He is a Lecturer in the Department of History and the History of Art at The University of Buckingham.
Professor Mark Wilson Jones’s research interests revolve around issues of design, especially as regards to the history of Classicism and ancient building. He is the author of Principles of Roman Architecture (Yale UP 2000), the only book to have been awarded both the Banister Fletcher Prize by the RIBA and the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion by the Society of Architectural Historians (UK). Another book with the same press, Origins of Classical Architecture, was published in 2014, while The Pantheon in Rome from Antiquity to the Present, co-edited with Tod Marder (Cambridge University 2015) won the American PROSE for best book of that year.
Jeremy Musson is one of Britain’s leading writers in the field of the history of architecture. Celebrated both as a historian of architecture and social history, his books include studies of English Country House Interiors, The Drawing Room and of the greatest British architect of the eighteenth century, Robert Adam; and is one of the authors responsible for the revision of the West Sussex volumes of Pevsner’s Buildings of England.
Adrian Tinniswood OBE FSA is the author of eighteen books on social and architectural history, including an important biography of the architect and polymath, Wren: His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren. He has worked with a number of heritage organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust, and is currently Senior Research Fellow in History at the Humanities Research Institute, University of Buckingham. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for his services to the national heritage.
What our students say
Patrick Newberry: ‘I was drawn to Buckingham by its great reputation both for scholarship and for innovation in its development of programmes…I have found that my expectations were more than justified; indeed, they have been far exceeded.’
Gwyneth Davis: ‘The seminar speakers were enlightening and informative, and the chance to dine at the Reform Club was not to be missed! I am really glad and proud that I completed the programme. I would recommend it without reservation to anyone ready for an academic challenge.’