By the 18th century castles were more likely to be invaded by tourists than soldiers

Stirling_Castle_Aerial_Photo.jpg

Stirling Castle, Scotland – Currently a popular tourist destination

From History Today by David C. Weinczok:

Until quite recently, if you were making your way to a castle it almost certainly was not with a smile on your face. Combining the roles of courthouse, prison, lordly home and stronghold, castles epitomised a relationship between those within and those without that was hierarchical at best and despotic at worst. Far from being a welcome or comforting sight, they were often the source of considerable misery, whether for those held against their will within them, the soldiers who attacked or defended them, or the local population kept in line by them. Why, then, did so many Romantic writers get whipped into fervour over them – and when did people shed the dread, and start visiting castles for fun?

Ever since they first came into being in Europe in the 11th century there is little doubt that castles were a source of awe. At some point, however, they changed from being feared social, political and martial institutions into spectacles to be adored and admired. Scotland provides an ideal case study for this process. With well over 2,000 castles and tower houses still standing to some extent, the international perception of Scotland is inextricably linked with its castle architecture.

The first castles in Scotland, however, were met by many not with enthusiasm but with resentment. Fortified sites such as hill forts and brochs had existed in Scotland for thousands of years, yet the castle was something new: an overt power play by the emerging feudal order that became entrenched in the wake of the Norman Conquest. Castles were a way for Scotland’s kings to stamp their authority on the fringes of their kingdom, with the majority of early motte-and-bailey castles being constructed on frontier zones between the nascent Kingdom of Scots and semi-independent Gaelic regions such as Moray, Argyll and Galloway. These castles were often systematically attacked by aggrieved locals, such as during the revolt of the Gallovidians against Alexander II in 1235.

Read the rest of the article at History Today

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Categories: British History

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