A History of European Architecture


In this course students will learn how to observe and analyse buildings by means of architectural style, which includes the study of form, ornament and spatial characteristics, as they change over time. Different periods of European architecture from the Gothic of the Middle Ages to Modernism in the twentieth century will be presented in the context of weekly lectures, with the addition of either a live walking tour in Oxford to examine specific buildings (face-to-face class) or a webinar where we examine the same buildings in Oxford virtually (WOW class).

The written paper will consist of a comparative analysis of two European buildings of the student's choice in order to consolidate skills of visual observation with historical context, thus enabling students to develop confidence in writing about architecture and design.

Programme details

Courses starts: 26 January 2022

Week 1:   Introduction to the course; the Gothic period and the age of the cathedral 

Week 2:   The classical Renaissance in architecture:  geometry, perspective, treatises; writing final paper 

Week 3:   Architecture in the late Renaissance and Mannerists periods:  the development of the private house

Week 4:  The Baroque in Italy and France:  domes, palaces, and the Catholic resurgence

Week 5:  The Baroque in Northern Europe:  developing a 'Protestant' architecture   

Week 6:  Rococo and the anti-Baroque:  gardens, nature and chinoiserie  

Week 7:  Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment in European architecture

Week 8:  The Gothic Revival; walking tour to Keble College and the Natural History Museum 

Week 9:  After Napoleon:  stylistic pluralism in architecture post 1815

Week 10:  The development of Modernism; final paper due


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £229.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Megan Aldrich

Megan Aldrich is an independent scholar who lectures and writes about architectural and design history.  Recent publications include Antiquaries and Archaists (2009); Art and Authenticity (2012); Thomas Rickman and the Victorians (2019); and articles in the journals of Garden History (2016), and Furniture History (2018, 2020).  She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and edits the journal Furniture History.

Course aims

To develop students' confidence in observing and analysing European architecture 

Course Objectives: 

to enable students to observe and experience buildings in a logical and structured way;

to introduce students to the ornamental vocabularies and stylistic features of the major periods of European architecture;

to encourage students to undertake written analysis of architecture. 

Teaching methods

The principal teaching methods will be weekly lectures plus a second hour of class to continue points raised in the lectures, with time for more intensive discussions of particular ideas, terminology and stylistic features.  There will be a one-hour walking tour in Week 8.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

observe buildings and draw conclusions regarding their architectural style and design elements;

recognise the major features of form and ornament across the principal periods of European architecture;

undertake written analysis of buildings and their design.

Assessment methods

There will be one written paper of 1,500 words to be handed in at the end of the term, as well as a planning session in Week 2.  The final paper will take the form of an illustrated comparison between two buildings representing two different styles of architecture. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

This is an introductory course, so no prior study of architecture is required.  However, some knowledge of history or art history will be useful, and an interest in the subject is essential.  The emphasis will be on visual analysis, supported by historical research.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)