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Castles in Medieval SocietyFortresses in England, France, and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages$
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Charles L. H. Coulson

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208242

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208242.001.0001

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Noble Military ‘Liberties’, Ethos and Ethics

Noble Military ‘Liberties’, Ethos and Ethics

(p.98) 1 Noble Military ‘Liberties’, Ethos and Ethics
Castles in Medieval Society


Oxford University Press

That fortresses were a basic ingredient of the medieval period, rather than an instrument of civil war waged by an anti-social minority, appears more fully by considering the medieval ‘arms ban’. Militant architecture and weaponry of all kinds have much in common as icons of rank and power. But whereas fortifying itself was rarely an act of force and did not ordinarily endanger the peace or jeopardize the public interest, the unrestrained use of weapons might well do both. New castles were peacefully sanctioned by local seignorial authority, with or without royal involvement in France, most often with it in England but preventing the associated noble liberty of arms-bearing from wreaking the havoc occasionally caused by large-scale state-sponsored violence called for constant vigilance. For good and for ill, castles were an integral feature of the noble and larger society which produced them, participating as much in its economic and cultural life as, albeit marginally overall, in its military activities.

Keywords:   castles, fortresses, medieval period, military liberties, noblemen, England, France, weaponry, architecture, arms ban

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