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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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Private Property But Public Utility

Private Property But Public Utility

(p.154) 3 Private Property But Public Utility
Castles in Medieval Society


Oxford University Press

Considering that they were personal and family residences, the degree of subordination of castles to public priorities in England and France during the medieval period is remarkable. Fortresses were not above the law, and more importantly they were not outside it. This chapter examines some sharper consequences of fortresses' dual personality — in what circumstances it was acceptable for them to be seized or even demolished (though still not erased from the map). If being attacked was normally unlikely, interference in the public interest represented by the castellan's superior (senyor, seigneur, or lord) was a contingent liability of the fortress. The chapter looks at some notable instances of urban hostility and class conflict involving ‘private’ castles. Rendability, in all the guises of conditional fortress-tenure, epitomized the public utility of private castles; while conversely the class antagonisms, which have been illustrated in south-west France, focused on fortification and displayed the practical limits of social consensus.

Keywords:   private castles, fortresses, public interest, private property, public utility, England, France, medieval period, class conflict, fortification

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