Acknowledged expert Marilyn Stokstad combines interpretive essays and original documents in English translation in order to examine the role of the castle in society as well as its use in war. Thirty illustrations provide valuable visual references, while 20 brief biographies of rulers, builders, and chroniclers allow one to glimpse into the lives of those who lived in and constructed these impressive structures. Seventy excerpted and annotated primary documents cover topics ranging from the defence of castles to the banquets thrown within them. A glossary of terms, annotated chronology, and index complete this useful work on a fascinating subject. Commencing with an overview of the military and social systems operating in the Middle Ages, Stokstad places castles and other fortified places into an appropriate context.
Readers are then guided through the development of early "motte and bailey" castles and the development of masonry towers and walls in the 11th and 12th centuries. Medieval Castles considers the military aspect of castles, including seige warfare and the architectural response to attack and defence, in the 12th and 13th centuries. It explores castles and citadels as local and regional government and economic centers in the 14th and 15th centuries. It also looks at the symbolic role of architecture and at castles as elite residences and settings for public display. A concluding interpretive essay looks at the impact of gunpowder on castles as well as our continuing fascination with the castle as a romantic fantasy of an idealized world.