Book Review: A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War


by Stuart Prior

Stroud, Eng.: Tempus Publishing/Chicago, IPG, 2006. Pp. 256. Illus., maps, diagr., tables, biblio., index. $37.95 paper. ISBN: 0752436511

A Few Well-Positioned Castles is a ground-breaking study of the Norman mode of conquest in the British Isles.
Dr. Prior,  Senior Teaching Fellow in Archaeological Practice at Bristol University, looks not at the famed Norman combined arms tactical system, but at their use of castles to project power, assert control, and initiate assimilation.  To do this, he takes an in-depth look at Norman castle-building in three areas differing greatly in ethnic, geographic, and environmental characteristics, County Meath, in Ireland, Monmouthshire in Wales, and Somerset in England.  For each area, Prior analyzes the types of castles used and their purpose.  By his reckoning, only about half of the castles turn out to have been built primarily for military reasons, that is to impose and display Norman power.  The primary purposes of the other castles varied.  Some were built for political reasons, two reward faithful supporters, or economic purposes, to secure particular resources or mercantile nodes, and some served purely social purposes, to spread Norman political and cultural influence.  In the process, Prior examines the design, purpose, and situation of literally dozens of castles.  
A Few Well-Positioned Castle is an immensely valuable work for any student of warfare, fortification, and political control in Medieval times.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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