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Study information

Medieval Castles in Context

Module titleMedieval Castles in Context
Module codeARC2406
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Oliver Creighton (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

You will explore the archaeology and history of medieval castles in Britain between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, looking at these sites as fortifications, homes and status symbols. You will pay pay particular attention to the social contexts of castles and their impacts upon and settings within the landscape. The module will consider a wide range of evidence ranging from standing buildings, archaeological excavations, portable artefacts, historical maps and documents, and the landscape itself.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to develop an appreciation of medieval castles and related sites in Britain between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. It adopts an holistic approach to these sites within their broader social and landscape contexts, and provides an overview of key differences in castle design both temporally and spatially, as well an appreciation of different debates concerning their interpretations, functions and meanings. While rooted in the study of British sites, material from Continental Europe and the Middle East will be used to explore broader developments and to provide comparison and contrast.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Know the principal site types and key trends in their chronological development and regional variation, alongside an appreciation of their wider social and landscape contexts
  • 2. Know the range of techniques and data sources available for the study of these sites and their settings
  • 3. Assess the presentation of castle heritage to the public

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Outline the kinds of material culture encountered and appreciate the mechanisms for their interpretation
  • 5. Understand different scales of spatial organisation and how they are expressed in the archaeological record

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Research a topic guided by a bibliography, and understand and appreciate information from a variety of sources
  • 7. Evaluate terms, concepts and examples and organise such information synthetically in order to address key thematic issues
  • 8. Contribute to workshop presentations using visual aids where appropriate
  • 9. Respond to comments in discussion and ask pertinent questions

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction and castle origins. The Norman period; earth and fortification; early castles of stone.
  • Donjons: functions, meanings and evolution; masonry castle planning: defence and domesticity.
  • Late medieval castles and fortified houses.
  • Continental currents and influences; castle-building in Scotland and Ireland.
  • Crusader castles; the impact and influence of castles in the Middle East.
  • Landscape context 1: Castles and the rural scene; landscapes of lordship and design.
  • Landscape context 2: Castles and urbanism; townscapes and the impact of authority.
  • Social context 1: Castles and castle-building society; the image of the castle.
  • Social context 2: Living in castles: the archaeological contribution.
  • Workshops: (1) interpreting pictorial sources; (2) deciphering documents.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching168 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching42 x 2 hour workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Tutorial (one)
Guided Independent Study129Guided independent study including reading, research and preparation for classes, presentation and assignments.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Poster50800-1000 words1-9Oral and Written feedback
Examination501.5 hours1-5Oral and Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PosterPoster 800-1000 words1-9Referral/deferral period
ExaminationExamination 1.5 hours1-5Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Coulson, C. 2003: Castles in Medieval Society: Fortresses in England, France, and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Creighton, O.H. 2005: Castles and Landscapes: Power, Community and Fortification in Medieval England. London: Equinox.
  • Johnson, M. 2002: Behind the Castle Gate: Medieval to Renaissance. London: Routledge.
  • Kenyon, J.R. 1989. Medieval Fortifications. Leicester: Leicester University Press.
  • Liddiard, R. 2005: Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism and Landscape, 1066 to 1500. Bollington: Windgather

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Archaeology, Medieval, Castles

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Not taken ARC3406

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

January 2009

Last revision date