Impact of crusader castles upon European western castles in the Middle Ages

Impact of crusader castles upon European western castles in the Middle Ages

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Impact of crusader castles upon European western castles in the Middle Ages

By Jordan Hampe

BA Thesis, University of Wisconsin, 2009

Abstract: During the Middle Ages, the period from roughly AD 1000-1450, the structure of castles changed greatly from wooden motte and bailey to stone keeps and defenses within stone city walls. The reason for the change was largely influenced by the crusades as Europeans went to the Holy Lands to conquer. In addition to conquering, these kings brought back a new way of designing and fortifying their castles in England, Wales and France. Without the influence of the crusades, what we think of as true middle age castles would not exist. For my paper I will analyze the impact the crusades had on forming the middle age castles by evidence surviving in the archaeological record from before and after the crusades as well as modifications done on castles to accommodate crusader changes to show the drastic influence of crusader castle fortifications upon English, Welsh and French castles.

Introduction: Construction of what is believed to be true middle age castles from A.D. 1000 to 1450 began as kings arrived back from the crusades to the Holy Lands, bringing with them ideas of how to make their castles grander and more easily defensible. Before the crusades William I of England was beginning to develop a new concentric style of castle beginning with the Tower of London. After the crusades many English, Welsh and French kings took the concentric concept and combined it with what they saw on the crusades and developed it to become majestic castles and fortresses like Chateau Gaillard in France, Dover Castle in England, and Caernarvon Castle in Wales.

With this paper there are two questions I wish to answer. The first is what was the order in which certain types of castle defense came to be during the middle ages and how do we first see them in the archaeological record from the time? The last question is whether the crusades made an impact on castle development and design at all in the west by referring to the archaeological timeline.

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