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Module HTH-2157:
The Age of the Castle

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Euryn Roberts

Overall aims and purpose

There is no more vivid symbol of the Middle Ages than the castle. This module sets out to explore these fascinating monuments and their potential as evidence for examining wider issues such as lordly lifestyles, governance, attitudes to authority, chivalry, architectural and landscape design, warfare, and domestic life in Europe and beyond during the period 1000-1500. Students will be given an opportunity to explore an extensive body of evidence, from written primary sources to archaeological reports. The multidisciplinary nature of this module encourages students to draw comparisons and to think critically about the role of castles in medieval societies.

The module aims to acquaint students with the main functions and impact of castles on medieval societies; to introduce rival interpretations of topics covered and equip students to judge between them; to encourage students to synthesize their understanding of the topic as a whole; and to let them take special interest in particular aspects.

Course content

This module explores the following themes:

  1. Introduction: From the ‘Castle Story’ to Current Thinking; 2. The Origin of the Castle; 3. ‘The King of the Castle’: Great Towers and Keeps; 4. ‘An Englishman’s Home is his Castle’?: The Castle as Lordly Residence; 5. The Castles of the Crusaders 1098-1291; 6. Castles and the Chivalric Ideal; 7. The Castles of Wales 1066-1415; 8. Castles and Elite Landscapes; 9. The Decline of the Castle?; 10. Romantic Ruins? Artists, Poets and the Heritage Industry

You will be given an opportunity to focus in-depth on these themes and on the underpinning primary sources in your seminars.

Assessment Criteria


Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Overall, the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently superior to top upper-second work. Standards of presentation will also be high.


Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing.

C- to C+

Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at undergraduate level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning.


Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across, and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.

Learning outcomes

  1. Present clear, evidence-based, and cogent historical arguments on aspects of the history and function of castles during the period 1000-1500.

  2. Judge between competing historical interpretations of the period, including current historiographical positions.

  3. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of some aspects of the topic.

  4. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the main functions and impact of castles during the period 1000-1500.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Essay 1 50
Essay 2 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

  1. Seminars – 1 hour per week (if taught over a period of 11 weeks)
  1. Lectures – 1 hour per week (if taught over a period of 10 weeks)

  2. Field Trip – 1 five hour long field trip.

Private study 174
Fieldwork 5

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

A select bibliography of general works.

Armitage, E. The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles. London, 1912. Bradbury, J. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge, 1992. Brown, R. A. English Castles. London, 3rd edn., 1979. Coulson, C. Castles in Medieval Society: Fortresses in England, France, and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages. Oxford, 2003. Creighton, O. Castles and Landscapes. London, 2002. Ellenblum, R. Crusader Castles and Modern Histories. Cambridge, 2007. Fernie, E. The Architecture of Norman England. Oxford, 2000. Higham R., a Barker, P. Timber Castles. London, 1992. Johnson, M. Behind the Castle Gate: From Medieval to Renaissance. Abingdon, 2002. Kennedy, H. Crusader Castles. Cambridge, 1994. Kenyon, J. R. Medieval Fortifications. Leicester, 1990. King, D. J. C. Castellarium Anglicanum. New York, 1983. King, D. J. C. The Castle in England and Wales: An Interpretative History. London, 1988. Liddiard, R. Castles in Context. Macclesfield, 2005. Platt, C. The Castle in Medieval England and Wales. London, 1982. Pounds, N. J. G. The Medieval Castle in England and Wales. Cambridge, 1994. Prestwich, M. Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience. New Haven, 1996. Strickland, M. War and Chivalry: The Conduct and Perception of Warfare in England and Normandy 1066–1217. Cambridge, 1996. Thompson, M. W. The Decline of the Castle. Cambridge, 1987. Wheatley, A. The Idea of the Castle in Medieval England. Woodbridge, 2004.

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: