Cataloging contractors know-how. An analysis of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century library catalogues of Belgian Industrial schools

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The diverse spectrum of actors in the construction industry, has (re-)emerged as a particular point of interest within construction history. Initially, after a strong focus on architects, the histo-rians’ interest was directed towards engineers, or via socio-cultural studies towards the crafts and trades. Gradually also (general) contractors received attention in historiography. Hereby focus was put on the importance of building contractors in relation to the introduction of new materials and technologies on site or from an economical point of view on their business organisation, and as such leaving important questions open in relation to their socio-cultural profile.
Henceforth, from a socio-cultural perspective, this paper wants to contribute to the research on the educational background of building contractors and the transfer of knowledge in relation to l’art de construire. Specific interest goes to the study of theoretical, technical and practical oriented handbooks and manuals used and/or produced by contractors in the Belgian educational contexts. The end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century provides a suitable backdrop for examining this knowledge transfer as in Europe and specifically in Bel-gium, the traditional building contractor, with its roots in artisan organization, evolves towards more modern forms of commercial professional associations around the turn of the century. The research adds to previous studies on the variety of educational programs and is based on a critical analysis of various nineteenth-century library catalogues of Belgian technical and industrials schools. These schools were developed since the mid of the nineteenth century and offered ap-propriate training to building contractors in order to ‘propager les perfectionnements apportés dans l’art du constructeur’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the fifth International Congress on Construction History. ICCH2015
Subtitle of host publicationConstruction History Society of America
EditorsBrian Bowen, Donald Friedman, Thomas Leslie, John Ochsendorf
Place of PublicationChicago
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-329-15030-0
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventFifth international congress on construction history - Chicago, United States
Duration: 2 Jun 20157 Jun 2015


ConferenceFifth international congress on construction history
Abbreviated titleICCH2015
CountryUnited States


  • Construction history
  • Contractors
  • Belgium


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