The study of medieval Irish castles: a bibliographic survey
By Terry Barry
Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 108C (2008)
Introduction: Castle studies in Ireland are undoubtedly flourishing at the present time, where a healthy debate continues about the origins, typology and socio-economic importance of castles in the medieval world. These fortifications are one of the truly iconic settlement forms of the feudal world in Western Europe together with the area’s great ecclesiastical buildings and walled towns.
The French medieval historian and resist ance fi ghter of the Second World War, Marc Bloch, wrote eloquently about the origins of castles stating that ‘it was the invasions of the Northmen or the Hungarians which, from the Adriatic to the plains of northern England, led … to the erection on every hand of the rural strongholds (fertés) which were destined to cast a perpetual shadow over the fi elds of Europe’.
But over the last decade or so the military importance of castles has often taken second place to a growing interest in their symbolic and economic importance. This debate has been joined by Irish academics, and here I attempt to provide a bibliographic framework from which to chart the progress of this important aspect of medieval archaeology. As such, this paper cannot hope to be fully comprehensive of every major publication in the area, but it will try to include most of the more enduring contributions to the subject in the last century or so.