The sintering and grain growth behaviour of alumina + 2, 3.5 and 5 wt.% carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and alumina + 2 wt.% carbon black nanocomposites prepared by Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) were studied. The addition of CNTs to ceramics produces a large reduction in the sintering temperature required for their complete densification and a significant grain size refinement by a previously unreported mechanism. The CNTs form a strong entangled network around the grains, which constrains the normal and abnormal grain growth. An alumina/alumina + 2 wt.% CNT/alumina laminate structure was prepared to demonstrate directly the large grain-growth retardation effect of CNTs. These effects open up the possibility of using CNTs as a sintering aid to control the sintering behaviour and microstructures of ceramics in bulk, laminate and functionally gradient (FGM) form.