This is the second part of a two part study of the evolution of fortifications between the fall of the Roman Empire and the eventual disappearance of the castle in the early modern period, when the focus shifted to fortified towns and fortresses. This part covers three main topics – the reconquista of Spain, the Hundred Years War and the development of fortifications in the Renaissance, leading to the Bastion fort, which dominated for several centuries before being replaced in the 19th century by rings of outlying polygonal fortresses.
In places the authors have got distracted from the topic of fortifications and drifted more into giving a general history of the events they are covering. This feels especially true in the chapter on Iberia and the reconquista, where we get a mix of a general history of the long series of wars and accounts of sieges. The two chapters on the Hundred Years War start in a similar vein, but we get more detail on the fortifications and more detailed accounts of the sieges as we move into the later part of the war.
I like the photographic pages. These normally combine a plan of the castle or fortified town, some modern photographs of the remains, and when possible a Medieval or Renaiisance illustration of the same place. These often prove that these early illustrations are actually pretty accurate, including key features from the actual castle.
The book becomes much more focused in the chapter on Renaissance fortifications, tracing the evolution from castle to artillery fort. Here we get more detail on the nature of fortifications and how they changed to cope with the impact of gunpowder artillery. It helps that we can more easily trace the contributions of individual military architects (many of whom are better known as artists – da Vinci and Durer amongst them). A look at the author’s other publications suggests that this period is their speciality, and that does show. The main text finishes with a look at the 16th century wars in Italy where these new fortifications were put to the test, and for the moment at least proved to be up to their task.
1 – Iberia: Crusading for Conquest
2 – The End of the Age of the Castles, Part I
3 – The End of the Age of the Castles, Part II
4 – The Fringes
5 – The Renaissance
6 – Closing an Era
Author: J.E. Kaufmann & H.W. Kaufmann
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military