19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2003
A fantastic resume of the history of the Castle over the years. No need to have watched the programme as the authors descriptions and diagrams allow your mind to illustrate all the mystery and facts surrounding a great British (or was it French!) tradition. A tribute to the author is the fact that you can't put it down. When will he write another and what will the subject be?????
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2005
Much better than the usual picture book accompanying the TV series - an excellent introduction to castles and the reasons for them.
Only real criticism, it would benefit from a few more maps and illustrations to go with the descriptions of sites.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2004
An interesting and very readable book. Marc Morris explains the evolution of the castle and how it has worked (or not) at different times in history. He really has brought the subject to life. He tells us about the people who built castles and examines what they wanted from their own particular version of it. This book was as gripping as any thriller!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2011
This book brings castles alive like no other. When I was young I loved visiting castles with my parents and we always bought the booklet about each particular castle. To a tee they were dry, largely inedible reading fodder. I was left entirely to my child's imagination as to how the castle functioned, whether anybody had lived in it and if so how they had lived in it. These booklets always told you who had built the castle in question and when, but they never told you why, what their motivation had been.
Marc Morris tells us all these things and much more. One becomes gripped by the successive stories that he lays before you each in a highly accessible, unstuffy and entertaining way. The book has a definite and logical structure to it, set out in the chronological sequence of castle building in England, Wales and Scotland. Each particular era of castle building is set within its political and monarchical context.
Because of this book I will now be able to visit castles with much more knowledge than before and so these visits will become that much more enjoyable. If only it had been available 40 years ago!
I highly recommend this book.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2003
This is an excellent companion to Morris' television series of
the same title, even as it stands on its own as a highly
entertaining and informative read. Morris retains in print
the same combination of historical knowledge and narrative
accessibility that he brings to the screen. By focusing not
just on the political and military motivations for castle-
building but also on the personalities and domestic circumstances
of those who built them, he has produced a book that should
appeal to a variety of readers. Not to be missed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2014
Castles are a familiar part of the British landscape, and visiting them formed a regular part of my childhood. We were always being taken to various castles, the earliest I can remember going to being Corfe Castle in Dorset. I have always found them magnificent, atmospheric and fascinating, and felt like if I could just retune my brain a little bit I'd be able to experience exactly what the castles were like in their heyday.
As an adult I have continued to visit castles regularly, most recently Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight where I picked up this book, but I must admit as I got older I was finding it more difficult to imagine what life in a castle would've been like or to remember what castles were really built for.
It's a very brief read but really interesting throughout, written in an informal and engaging style. Starting with the earliest castles and a description of the familiar motte-and-bailey design, Marc Morris provides fascinating evidence of how castles spread throughout the country and how the locals (or at least the monks) felt about them. The book is well structured, concentrating on a particular theme in each chapter, from the original earth and wood castles, through massive stone keeps such as the Tower of London and Rochester Castle, the archetypal castles of the thirteenth century built by Edward I in North Wales which remain among the most impressive to still stand, and then on to the more `fairytale' designs such as Bodiam Castle in Sussex, Scottish `tower houses' and then concluding with the mass destruction of the castles following the English Civil War.
I learnt plenty of new things from the book, including how it's possible to trace the masons that built Edward's Welsh castles back to their apprenticeships in Switzerland, how by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the defensive purpose of the castle had largely given way to becoming an impressive home that projected power locally, and how the extravagant castles built in the South East of England were financed by plundering France in the Hundred Years War, and also read good accounts of events I was vaguely familiar with such as the harrying of the North, the siege of Rochester Castle, or the conquest of North Wales.
As said above, it's a brief book and there's absolutely loads of castles that don't get any sort of mention at all (not least Carisbrooke, where I bought the book) but it's still a great read and a good basic introduction (or re-introduction) into castle history. It's certainly helped to bridge the gap between my enthusiasm for castles and my actual knowledge about them like how they were built, what they were for and why some still stand but others don't, and it'll certainly give me more to look for and think about at the next castle I visit. Well recommended.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2008
Castle: A History of Buildings That Shaped Medieval Britain
Castle, by Marc Morris is in his own words not meant to be 'a guide to castles, nor a comprehensive gazetteer'; it is an invitation to us, the reader to think, read and visit castles ourselves to pursue our interest in them - it is the seed, not the tree itself.
However, Marc Morris has written a thoroughly interesting and informative story of the Castle's history which fits perfectly alongside his TV series of the same name. It starts from the creation of Castles in England until the English Civil War when the Castle had its last stand (to use the last chapter's title) - it will make you want to visit and experience them for yourself.
A great read.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2009
I bought this book without any prior knowledge, just chose it on Amazon for some reason.
It turned out to be a very engaging and informative read. Marc Morris is an excellent writer, the topic of castle history can be very boring, but he manages to make it exciting, fascinating and entertaining! He suggests several criteria to look for while evaluating castles and suggests the structure into which to classify your knowledge about castles. He chooses one particular example of a "typical" castle for each epoch and covers its history in great detail while providing info about other castle of the period.
I am in love with this book and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who wants to learn about British castles.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2003
If you've seen the fascinating Channel 4 series of the same name, you'll appreciate Morris's unique ability as a TV academic to present quite complex historical events lucidly, and in an entertaining manner. Fortunately, he writes in just the same way.
As a result this is not a boring, plodding account of 600 years of castle building in Britain. Nor is it merely a coffee table book full of pretty photographs and drawings but lacking in historical content, like so many other books on castles. Morris manages to strike a fine balance between the two extremes.
In this book, and indeed in the series, Morris manages to make what are essentially piles of ruined stone seem exciting places with great stories.
The six chapters in the book mirror the content of the six programmes in the series. So you start with William the Conqueror introducing the motte and bailey castle as a weapon of conquest in 1066 and finish with the English Civil War and the destruction of castles in Britain. Along the way, you see (through excellent photos and illustrations) how 'the castle' evolved over six centuries, both physically and conceptually. Morris's big (and convincing) argument is that castles are not just military fortresses, but comfortable homes with lavish furnishings.
Read this book and you'll not only want to go and visit all the castles featured, but you'll never look at a castle again in quite the same way.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2003
This book is highly informative, well written and takes a completely different approach. Morris focuses upon not only the history of the castle itself but upon the reasons for their construction on behalf of their builders such as Edward Dallingridge (Bodium) and Archibald the Grim.
Having always had an interest in castles personally and having written my University Dissertation about why castles were built in certain places this text ranks amongst the best. Morris offers useful ideas and concepts with well supported arguements and material.
Morris could perhaps have mentioned a few more castles and perhaps concentrates upon a select few within each of his chronologically organised chapters, especially those built in Yorkshire around the time of the Harrying by William I (1069).
On the whole an excellent read which suggests new concepts in castle building. I very much enjoyed it.