The influence of the castle, both in the course of history and on the lives of those who frequented them, had never before been fully assessed. This book is therefore not only fascinating to the general reader but also indispensable to anyone studying the underlying causes of events in the Middle Ages. Before the evolution of the castle, Europe was an easy prey to any bloodthirsty marauder. Once the motte-and-bailey 'instant castle' had been conceived there was a revolution in tactics and strategy; invaders were checked, frontiers were held, and life became more stable. Subsequently castles became part of conquerors' 'grand designs' and to this we owe the great Crusader castles of Syria and the Edwardian castles of North Wales. The historical background of these events is outlined when appropriate to give the reader a comprehensive picture of castles under attack and castles in peace. Life and thought in the Middle Ages was not quite so remote from our own as is commonly thought and the author draws some interesting and sometimes disturbing parallels between modern and medieval thought and action. Above all, this is a book about people in castles; the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the chores they hated, and the thoughts that motivated them. The men seem tougher and the women more wicked than nowadays, but it is a world and a life we understand. The castle was a military society with all the virtues and faults which are present in similar organisations today. This highly readable and informative book not only tells us about medieval life but indicates that medieval life can tell us about ourselves today.