The Medieval City under Siege. Ed. by Ivy A. Corfis and Michael Wolfe.   The Boydell Press. 1995. x + 292 pp. £39.50

The present work is a recompilation of essays whose focus was inspired by the conference "The Medieval city under siege" held at the University Park Campus of the Pennsylvania State University in April, 1992. Some of them have been amplified and recrafted, others have been solicited especially for this publication.

            This group of essays is a good representation of some of the new perspectives on Medieval siege warfare. Here we can find the use of different methods of research from the archaeological ones - for example the excellent study of Denys Pringle on "Town defences on the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem"- to the literary approach of Michael Harney´s "Siege Warfare in Hispanic Epic and Romance". The geographical landscape, although tends to focus on the events in France and Italy, is also wide open; going from the Iberian lands -as in the paper of the well known specialist James F. Powers  "Life on the Cutting Edge: the Besieged Town on the Luso-Hispanic Frontier in the Twelfth Century", passing through Germany (Michael Toch´s "The Medieval German city under siege"), to Byzantium and the Crusaders kingdoms. The chronological period of study goes from the XIIth to the XVth century, although Eric McGeer´s "Byzantine Siege warfare in Theory and Practice (X-XIth centuries)" and Paul E. Cheveden´s "Artillery in late Antiquity: Prelude to the Middle Ages" escape from that time band. The subjects studied here are the best example of these new tendencies on the research on siege warfare. From the role played by the towns during long wars and it effects on state building -as in Michael Wolfe´s "Siege Warfare and the Bonnes Villes of France during the Hundred Years Wars"-, to purely technological and urban fortification aspects as in the papers of Pringle, McGeer and Cheveden. From the sieges as literary settings for social and genre concerns ( Heather Arden´s "The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Love in the Roman de la rose"), as well as a landscape for the "subversion" of chivalric values (Winthrop Wetherbee´s "Chivalry under Siege in Ricardian Romance"), to one of the dearest topics of this new approach, as has to be the discussion on the real existence of the so called "Military Revolution" of the XVIth century, the evolution of Medieval siege warfare and the transition to a new age. These last aspects are treated in Kelly DeVries´s "The Impact of Gunpowder Weaponry in the Hundred Years War"; Michael Mallet´s "Siegecraft in Late Fifteenth-Century Italy", and Bert S. Hall´s "The Changing Face of Siege Warfare: Technology and Tactics in Transition". All of these papers are preceded by an introduction by the editor Michael Wolfe, citing quite an interesting , although short, bibliography.

            Of course, not all the new points or subjects are treated in this book. For example, the well known use of siege and military images by clerics and laymen in their sermons or books about morality and true love do not appear here[1]. Some papers about "the other side" are also missed, how the enemy of the people described here faced the problem of  siege warfare. Very little is said about the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula and Palestine, and nothing is said about the Celts facing Anglo-Norman invasion, or the pagan/Christian people of central Europe facing the German expansion. Other side of these new approaches, not treated here, is the topographical study and urbanistic impact of  siege warfare in the evolution of our villes.

            To sum up, although none of the papers presented here offers spectacular or really new discoveries, the selection of writers in this book, specialist in their areas of research, gives us the opportunity to have an overlook of the new perspectives on the study on siege warfare.


José Maneul Rodriguez

University of Salamanca

Just some examples for the Castilian Kingdom. For the true and rightful love see Diego de San Pedro´s Carcel de Amor; for religious use of siege warfare images see Alonso de Espina´s Fortalitium Fidei.