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Essay/Term paper: Castles

Essay, term paper, research paper:  World History

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In medieval times, castles served as the home and fortress of a monarch
or noble. The earliest castles were built from earth and wood. By the 12th
century, most castles were built from stone. The stones came from local mines
or quarries if possible, but sometimes they had to be carried long distances by
water or on ox wagons. The roofs of castles were covered with slates, clay
tiles, or wooden shingles.
Castles were built on steep hill sides or at the top of rocky cliffs.
This was for protection from attackers. It made it harder for them to reach the
Castles also had additional purposes. They sometimes served as barracks,
prisons, storehouses, armories, treasure houses, and the center for local
government. Castles sometimes had brewhouses, a laundry a huge bakers oven,
workshops, dovecotes, and stables (MacDonald, p.12)
Castle walls surrounded the entire castle and were usually several
meters thick. They usually had 3 layers: a rough stone inner shell, a thick,
solid filling of flint and rubble, and an outer layer of stone called ashlar.
(MacDonald, p.8) There was usually a walkway along the top of the walls so
guards could keep watch. Some castle walls had spaces at the top called
embrassures, which allowed archers to shoot with the protection of the wall.
These openings also permitted stones or boiling water to be thrown down on the
enemy. (Encyclopedia Americana, p.790). Towers were built along castle walls
at regular intervals to strengthen them and provide area for castle workers or
Moats often surrounded castles for protection. Some people built
castles on banks of lakes or rivers and channeled water to the moat. A
drawbridge laid across the moat and could be raised if an enemy approached.
Castles had few window, because they made the castle drafty and allowed
the enemy a way inside. Glass was a luxury until around the 15th century.
Although oiled paper shut out some of the drafts, shutters were the usual way of
shutting windows. (Encyclopedia Americana, p.791)
The castle hall was usually the single largest room in the castle. In
the early middle ages, it was common to sleep in the hall. (Encyclopedia
Americana, p.791). In the late Middle Ages, however, the hall wasn't used as
much. People would eat by themselves in a room, usually wit a fireplace.
Castles usually seemed indestructible, but they were not. Enemies had
many ways of attacking castles. Arrows could be made to ignite a castle when it
was fired. Attackers could make moveable towers that could help get them over
castle walls. (Encyclopedia Americana, p.790). Walls could also be tunneled
under, or undermined, but moats made this difficult. Enemies could block off a
castle from outside food, water, and help, but it could take months to starve
castle defenders, so this usually wasn't successful. Lastly, catapults could
eventually batter down castle walls.
Lords of the castle sometimes had social gatherings in the castle.
People gathered in the hall for feasts and listened to music by minstrels, or
wandering singers. On special occasions, lords held jousting events in a field
outside the castle.


1.) Hogg, Ian. The History of Forts and Castles. New York: Crescent Books,

2.) MacDonald, Fiona. A Medieval Castle. New York, New York: Peter Bedrick
Books, 1990.

3.) "Castles." The Encyclopedia Americana. 1994 Edition.


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