England is dotted with hundreds of castles, some in ruins, some still inhabited. They remain the most romantic and popular historic buildings in the country, visited by millions every year. For centuries they were at the heart of the kingdom’s social and political life, acting as strongholds, centres of government, political showpieces and residences. John Goodall’s study successfully sets castles in their general historic context, tracing their development in England through the Middle Ages and well beyond. He surveys a period of some 600 years, from the Norman Conquest to the end of the Civil War in the 1650s, and the book’s strength lies in his knowledge and exposition of the historical background and his firmly presented thesis.
Castles have probably been more written about, especially in the twentieth century, than any other type of English historic buildings. Recent castle publications come in two strands: the popular and the academic. Goodall regrets the gap between the two approaches. He particularly deplores the view of castles put