James worked for four years at English Heritage managing a conservation grants programme for textiles, ceramics, metalwork and stained glass. He returned to conservation in 1994, when he gained his Masters in Architecture from the University of York. He focused on the built heritage of Arabia, with a particular emphasis on Oman, and his dissertation on that country’s vernacular architecture, historic landscapes and falaj system was the first of its kind at Masters level. He subsequently worked as a consultant on heritage conservation projects in Yemen, where he ran workshops at the universities in Sana’a and Aden, and in Jeddah, where he worked with the city’s Historic Area Preservation Department to produce a heritage trail around the old quarter.

Since returning to the UK, James has written extensively on aspects of art, architecture and history, both at home and abroad. He worked on several major book projects for the London Centre of Arab Studies and also managed the National Trust’s academic publishing programme. He has a particular interest in vernacular buildings and was instrumental in The Breckland Society’s 2004–7 survey of traditional architecture in the Brecks; click here for more information and to download the project report. He has also been interviewed on various radio and TV programmes, including BBC One’s Countryfile and BBC Two’s Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo.