by John Murphy

An introduction to the history of project management

Book Reviews

An introduction to the history of project management by Y.C. Chiu
An introduction to the history of project management by Y.C. Chiu

An introduction to the history of project management: From the earliest times to A.D.1900 By Y.C. Chiu

This book is a treatise on how early civilizations have helped to formulate what we now know as project management. It covers the period from earliest times up to the first part of the twentieth century when pioneers introduced the now familiar methods of project management. So, for modern project managers it should be seen as background information rather than ways of working currently.

The author has done some painstaking research to show how each major civilization has improved and developed knowledge and experience in a wide range of interrelated areas. His research focuses on project management by looking at how construction methods and techniques have developed over time.

Arranged into five chapters, plus bibliography and index, the flow of material is logical and shows a sensible structure for the topic of the book. The early chapters provide an introduction to the historical periods under review and helps the reader to understand the context of the research.

Each chapter is organised into subsections related to the period under discussion. There are helpful conclusions at the end of each chapter that provide a lead into the following section.


Where this book provides both value and interest is in showing a clear path of learning and development from one civilization to the next. While the main topic of the book is project management, the author is able to show much broader influences in society in general, which helps to put context around where we find ourselves today.

Each civilization was both keen and capable of advancement and the way in which this progressed is well documented in the book. Right at the beginning the point is made that progress really only began once the nomadic way of life was overtaken by more settled encampments that fostered and encouraged learning. This was a key stage from which much of what we know and do today stems. What seems a relatively obvious change to us was clearly a revolutionary change at the time.

It is a well-known fact that people take in information in various ways. I was disappointed to see therefore that there were no illustrations or diagrams to accompany any of the text. While many of the structures described are known it would have helped to have seen specific visual examples.

It is clear that the author has taken an analytical and academic approach to the work. On this basis the group of people who would gain the greatest benefit are those interested in the study of construction and related practices. They could use the content to broaden their understanding of developments in construction and also be in a position to provide relevant context for specific assignments.

This is not a light read and will not appeal to all. Having said that I did learn how previous eras influenced and encouraged succeeding ones to innovate and improve. This is still happening and will continue to do so. For project managers this book offers a historical perspective that underpins what we continue to do today.

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