Of all the monuments of medieval European civilization, castles are probably the most familiar, rivalled only by the parish churches and great cathedrals. They may well be the most popular form of amateur history. How they are perceived has coloured ideas of medieval society, aristocratic culture, faith, and strife, permeating them all with images of dungeons, battering-rams, and boiling oil. 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. The present book explores the social history of castles during the central middle ages. It offers new insights for England and Ireland derived, in no small part, from associating Britain with the provinces of France with which links were so intimate during that central medieval period that runs from the later 11th to the late 14th century.
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