“A History of the Early Medieval Siege, c. 450-1200” by Peter Purton

A History of Early Medieval Siegestarstarstarstar

Whether you’re a writer of medieval historical fiction, a medieval history teacher, or an amateur medieval historian looking to give talks and guided tours at museums and locations throughout Europe; every once in a while a book comes along that you just have to add to your library.  The price tag may be steep, but the information, detail, facts and statistics presented in A History of the Early Medieval Siege is invaluable to any person matching the above categories.  You may also just be an interested reader in the period, looking to get everything you can on the subject of medieval warfare; well then, look no further.

The author, Peter Purton, is not your usual professor of a well respected academic profession.  He is an equalities officer for Britain’s Trade Union Congress, but developed a lifelong interest in medieval fortifications after visiting the Edwardian Castles of North Wales when he was a child.  He has devoted over a decade of his spare time to research and study – along with a doctorate in history from Oxford University – to creating and publishing an epic, two-volume series.  A History of the Early Medieval Siege is the first volume (A History of the Late Medieval Siege, unsurprisingly is the second, companion volume, also available).

The text is small, the words many, the tables and charts seemingly never ending, the photos and drawings abundant, and the bibliography overwhelming to say the least (over 70 pages), along with a glossary, timeline, and thorough index; readers will have no problem finding a specific detail, point in time, or type of siege – be it ballista, trebuchet, or whatever tickles your fancy.  The Roman period was obviously an incredibly important one for the development of siege weaponry, which Purton also discusses and explains how these instruments of war and destruction were carried into the medieval period and then developed and improved over the centuries, as well as new and more destruction siege engines devised.

A History of the Early Medieval Siege (as well as the companion volume) comes down to one thing really: would you rather have three shelves of an assortment of books, or one thick, sturdy volume you can turn to time and time again?

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Originally written on September 16 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.