Fortified structures have been in existence for thousands of years. In ancient and medieval times castles were the ultimate symbol of power, dominating their surroundings, and marking the landscape with their imposing size and impregnable designs. After the Norman conquest of England, castles exploded in popularity amongst the nobility, with William the Conqueror building an impressive thirty-six castles between 1066-1087, including Windsor Castle is one example of such a castle which survives today, a monument of the remarkable architecture designed and developed in medieval England.
This concise and entertaining short history explores the life of the castle, one that often involved warfare and sieges. The castle was a first and foremost a fortress, the focus of numerous clashes which took place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Castles became targets of sieges, such as that organised by Prince Louis of France against Dover castle in 1216, and were forced to adopt greater defensive measures. Also explored is how they evolved from motte-and-bailey to stone keep castles, in the face of newly-developed siege machines and trebuchets. The trebuchet named Warwolf, which Edward I had assembled for his siege of Scotland's Stirling Castle, reportedly took three months to construct and was almost four hundred feet tall on completion. With features such as 'murder-holes' for throwing boiling oil at the attackers, the defenders in the castle fought back in earnest. Alongside such violence, the castle functioned as a residence for the nobles and their servants, often totalling several hundred in number. It was the location for extravagant banquets held in the great hall by the lord and lady, and the place where the lord carried out his administrative duties such as overseeing laws and collecting taxes.
John Sadler has been writing and teaching military history for over thirty years with some 34 non-fiction and one historical fiction titles in print. For over two decades he has lectured on war studies at Newcastle and Sunderland Universities Centre for Lifelong Learning, (now the 'Explore' Programme). He is also a highly experienced battlefield tour guide for both world wars, classical, medieval and Napoleonic conflicts. His writing draws heavile on eyewitness accounts and he has been interviewing and recording serving personnel and veterans since the 1980s. His previous books include: Operation Mercury - the Battle for Crete 1941
(Pen & Sword 2006),
End of the Beginning - El Alamein 1942 (Amberley 2010), Desert Rats (Amberley 2011), Ghost Patrol - the LRDG (Casemate 2015) and Bertie Buck's Suicide Club - Operation Agreement 1942 (Osprey/Bloomsbury 2016), as well as several volumes in the Casemate Short History series.