Castles in Medieval Society: Fortresses in England, France, and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages

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"In this new book Charles Coulson overturns many of the traditional assumptions about the nature and purpose of castle-building in the middle ages." Going back to the original sources, Dr. Coulson proposes a new and more subtle understanding of the function and symbolism of castles as well as providing vivid insights into the lives of the people who inhabited them. Fortresses were only occasionally caught up in war, but constantly were central to the ordinary life of all classes of the nobility and gentry, of widows and heiresses, of prelates and clergy, of peasantry and townspeople alike. Castles in Medieval Society presents and explores this broad social panorama.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199273638
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 454
  • Sales rank: 1,293,332
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Kent at Canterbury
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Table of Contents

Part I. Castles: Ancient, Various, and Sociable
1. A Fresh Look at Early Castles
2. Variety Violated: Some Conceptual Problems
3. Some Social Relations of 'Castles and Fortresses'
Part II. Castles and the Public Interest
4. Noble Military 'Liberties', Ethos, and Ethics
5. Peacekeeping at Home and Abroad
6. Private Property but Public Utility
Part III. Castellans, Colonization, and Rural Community
7. Castle-Lords, Castle-Lordships, and Noble Civilization
8. Colonization and Fortresses
9. Population and Fortresses: Protection and Perquisites
Part IV. Castles and Circumstances of Widows, Guardians, and Heiresses
10. Female Castellans: Prevision not Prejudice
11. Ladies of Fortresses and Castle-Children

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    detailed view of castles in European society

    Coulson seeks to revise the understanding of castles as basically military structures to an understanding of them as images of the primary factors and the complexity of European society in the time from the fall of Rome to the late Middle Ages. This society was basically hierarchical and aristocratic. Today's conventional conception of a castle as more or less a fortification is a largely romantic notion bearing little relation to the true place of castles in medieval society. In medieval Europe, towns, ecclesiastical areas, estates and mansions, and even temporary earthworks of a traveling army were regarded as castles. The word 'fortalicium' originally used for 'castle' meant 'element' or 'sign' of fortification more than strictly a military fortification. In the medieval society, this was understood to mean above all 'a symbolism of aristocratic armed power.' As symbols of this power, castles were also social centers where most of the interaction of the different social classes took place. As Coulson remarks, there is no military history associated with most castles. In his revision of the conception of castles, the author elaborates on the presence of high-rankng women in many of them. Coulson is a research fellow at England's U. of Kent. He does not undercut the significance of castles in medieval society; rather, he shifts the understanding of what their significance was.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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