Mark Donnelly Siege: Castles at War

ISBN 13: 9780878332137

Siege: Castles at War

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9780878332137: Siege: Castles at War
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This slim, colorful book (containing 150 photos and diagrams) offers a good overview of medieval siege warfare. The authors use a fictional battle between the English and French to drive their narrative, but also provide plenty of historical information on how castles were attacked and how they defended themselves. In addition to surveying the weapons, armor, and tactics used, Donnelly and Diehl include interesting social trivia: Medieval armies that went off to war, for example, usually had a cadre of prostitutes in tow.

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This companion to a TV documentary will include a lavish complement of illustrations, unavailable for review, of medieval siegecraft as portrayed by historical reenactors instead of as frequently inaccurately rendered in medieval prints. Evaluating it on its text alone is rather chancy, yet Donnelly and Diehl can be said to acquit themselves most creditably. The first quarter of the book rather cursorily summarizes the emergence of fortifications and their role in medieval warfare, which reached its height in the Hundred Years' War. The remainder splendidly details the hypothetical siege of a French castle by an English army. Donnelly and Diehl present the elaborate etiquette of sieges; both pre-and post-gunpowder mining tactics; a typology of siege engines (some of them exceedingly formidable) and of archery (the crossbow was more powerful and probably more accurate than the longbow but much slower in shooting); and medieval logistics, which, for an army of 16,000, were impressively complex. Even without the pictures, a valuable addition to military and medieval collections. Roland Green

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