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Unit information: Castles in 2015/16

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Unit name Castles
Unit code ARCHM0068
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Prior
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This specialized unit will focus on the archaeology and history of the castle. Areas covered will include castle origins, castle siting, castle development & design, castle landscapes & townscapes, the castle in politics & war, castle economy & society, castles & churches, castle status, symbolism, iconography & power, the decline of the castle, and the castle as heritage. Castles will be considered from a variety of functional and theoretical perspectives, and the history and discipline of castle studies (castellology) will also be explored. The unit aims to give students a detailed knowledge and appreciation of one of the most significant and extant buildings in history.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit a successful student will be able to: 1. Explain the development, design and decline of castles in the UK, Europe and beyond; 2. Recognise and appropriately describe both stone and earthwork castles using appropriate terminology; 3. Summarise the history of the castle and explain its importance in medieval and modern society; 4. Summarise the history of the period in which the castle played a central role in both peacetime and wartime. 5. Recognise landscapes of conflict and designed castle landscapes; 6. Assess the contribution of archaeology, architectural studies, historic sources, landscape studies, topographic, geophysical & standing building survey to castle studies; 7. Assess and evaluate the latest theories and debates surrounding the study of castles, from both functional and theoretical perspectives; 8. Discuss the problems and limitations of using archaeological evidence to interpret and understand castles and other standing buildings; 9. Discuss the complexities and limitations of the archaeological record as an analytical tool; 10. Synthesise evidence from a wide range of sources, both historical and archaeological; 11. Appraise the quality and reliability of the various datasets available for studying castles and the Medieval period; 12. Explain the importance of the castle as a heritage asset.

Teaching details

Onex2hr Lecture/Seminar session per week for 10 weeks; one x6hr (all day) fieldtrip; two x1hr reading group sessions.

Assessment Details

Essay 2500 words (50%) (assesses learning outcomes: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

Portfolio of an Individual Castle (50%) (assesses learning outcomes: 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Each week’s lecture will be themed and the student seminars that follow will build upon the theme and the info collected and collated by the students for each week’s seminar will be added to their portfolio. This will include a brief write-up of each week’s theme as it relates to their castle and also photos, plans, leaflets, web info, etc.

The seminar sessions will also include formative assessment.

Reading and References

Coulson, C., 2003, Castles in Medieval Society: Fortresses in England, France and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford Uni. Press; Creighton, O.H., 2004, Castles and Landscapes: Power, Community and Fortification in Medieval England. Equinox; Higham, R. & Barker, P., 2012, Timber Castles. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press; Liddiard, R. (ed.), 2003, Anglo-Norman Castles. Woodbridge: Boydell; Pounds, N.J.G., 1990, The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni. Press; Prior, S.J., 2006. A Few Well-Positioned Castles: the Norman art of war. Stroud: Tempus.