History 2173 Lecture Notes - Siege Engine, Mangonel, Ballista

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Published on 21 Mar 2013
Department
March, 21, 2013
Castles and Siege Warfare
-Castles had many functions at different times but obviously they were the homes of the great and powerful and
the centre of administration and government and the estates of the European elites were scattered
-Transportation was very poor and the simplest thing was for lords to store goods where they were collected and
to travel around to consume the goods and they were constantly on the move between estates
-The castles were built with more than just military conditions because they were homes and they had to be
comfortable and were a way of showing status
-Having a great hall and second story windows were a sign of wealth even if they were considered weak points
from a defence stand point
-Peasants were easier to manipulate if they were in awe of your castle and their walls helped protect from unrest
at home because there may be discontent among the peasants
-King William had many castles constructed and be brought many French Normans with him with the promise of
land and he agreed to grant licences to the aristocratic to let them build castles on their land but he did realize his
followers needed to be controlled so the huge number of motte and bailey castles were needed for national
strategy but also for private enterprise
-Estates were managed from Castles and they were governed by local government and they held court there to
seek justice so they had to have buildings to house all those needed to run the place and to entertain fellow nobles
-There were lots of comings and goings associated with these functions and many contained a community of
consumers like a garrison and state managers so they attracted traders and became centres of commerce and as a
result a community of merchants commonly grew up near castles
-King Edward I after he conquered Wales fostered commercial development around his castles to hold down Wales
and he sent English men to keep the Welsh out and to promote English colonization
-Castle design stories usually tell of starting with earth, then wood, then stone and there is something to that
progression but there were early stone castles in a time of wood
-Count Nerra had many stone castles but he was unusual for the time and prehistoric earth works were inspiration
for them as well as Roman examples but most of them were just ruins but in the 10th-11th centuries usually earth
and wood were more prominent
-There is a lot of geographical differences and before the Normans there were no castles in England but there were
other fortifications like earth enclosures around their halls
-Ring-works were common in Germany and they were raised because of the high water table and they were a
barrier against invaders and rising waters and they are seen in the Netherlands as well
-To be sure motte and bailey of the Norman type didn’t exist in England before the conquest and the motte was
the mound (natural or artificial) that the castle was located on and there was a defended open area with buildings
and this was the bailey (could have multiple ones for more protection) and it was fairly primitive and there was a
lot of palisading and an artificially made ditch around the whole thing with water
-Peasant labour was used to create these castles and they could be constructed without much technical expertise
easily and quickly in comparison and this was a type of castle that came to be built in many areas of the west
centre of Europe but they didn’t last long because they were wood and the needs of the lords changed when they
married with the French and there was more cooperation so the need for so many castles was less
-The mid 12th century onward castles were made of stone and were more elaborate and strong and they tended to
be more massive and a primary element was the tower or donjon that developed into huge structures over time
and the Tower of London is an example of this
-They were more square or rectangular with multiple defences with those at the top of castles called
machicolations (cut outs at the top that looks like a crown) that were used offensively and defensively because you
could throw things from above then protect yourself behind one of the outcroppings
-Towers were commonly wider at the bottom so people at the top could throw things down and if they missed the
people the objects would still bounce and become shrapnel which could still cause some damage
-There was a move to more rounded towers but the English didn’t adopt this to the same extent as the French
because they were harder to breach and the smaller masonry used made the structures stronger
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Document Summary

Castles had many functions at different times but obviously they were the homes of the great and powerful and the centre of administration and government and the estates of the european elites were scattered. Transportation was very poor and the simplest thing was for lords to store goods where they were collected and to travel around to consume the goods and they were constantly on the move between estates. The castles were built with more than just military conditions because they were homes and they had to be comfortable and were a way of showing status. Having a great hall and second story windows were a sign of wealth even if they were considered weak points from a defence stand point. Peasants were easier to manipulate if they were in awe of your castle and their walls helped protect from unrest at home because there may be discontent among the peasants.

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