HIST 192 – Life in a Medieval Castle (Fall 2018)


University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Prof. Martha Carlin
Fall 2018

copyright Martha Carlin 2018; all rights reserved

Office: Holton 318
Phone: (414) 229-5767
Messages: History Department, tel. (414) 229-4361
E-mail: carlin@uwm.edu
Home page: https://people.uwm.edu/carlin/
Office hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-3:00 PM, and by appointment


Course Description: The medieval castle was much more than a fortress; it was medieval society in microcosm. Castles were the homes not only of aristocratic owners and their families, but also of the many other people who worked in them, including knights, squires, pages, waiting-women, clerics, physicians, tutors, nursemaids, administrators, entertainers, cooks, builders, tailors, domestic servants, and men-at-arms. In this course we will use original medieval texts and images, surviving buildings, archaeological evidence, and the work of modern scholars to examine what it was like to live and work in a medieval castle; how castles were built and how their designs changed over time; and the role of castles in medieval society, politics, and warfare.

Course work and objectives: There will be weekly reading and writing assignments, and lots of class discussion in which everyone will be expected to take a lively part. The reading, writing, and oral discussions are designed both to give you a good overview of the subject, and also to develop your skills in:

  •     reading and evaluating sources carefully and critically
  •     identifying and analyzing a wide variety of types of evidence
  •     using such evidence to reconstruct and interpret the past
  •     combining research and analysis with thoughtful writing to produce clear,        original, and persuasive arguments

Email and Internet access:  You will require an email account and access to the Internet for this class. All UWM students receive a free UWM email account, and have free Internet access via UWM computer terminals and wifi in UWM buildings. The History Department regularly contacts students via their assigned UWM email addresses.  If you use another email service provider (such as Gmail) instead of your assigned UWM email account, you should immediately go into your UWM email account and put a “forward” or “copy” command on it to forward or copy all incoming email messages to the account that you routinely use.  This is your responsibility; the History Department will use UWM email addresses only.

Grading and deadlines: You will be assessed on both your class participation and your written work. Fifty percent of your final grade will be based on your class attendance and participation. This includes not only showing up for each class, with copies of the day’s assigned readings, but also doing the assigned reading before coming to class, and taking an active part in discussions and other in-class work. The other fifty percent of your final grade will be based on your out-of-class assignments (described at end of syllabus).  Assignments are due on the dates specified.  Late work will not be accepted, except in cases of major illness or emergency (it is your responsibility to contact me immediately in such a case).

Exams:   There will be no midterm or final exam for this course, but there may be unannounced quizzes, which will count towards your final grade.

Attendance:  There will be two class meetings each week, and your attendance at each class is required.  Your grade will be lowered if you miss class, except in genuine cases of illness or emergency (it is your responsibility to contact me immediately in such a case).  Students who do not attend class during the first week of classes may be dropped administratively.

Electronic devices in class: You may use a laptop or tablet computer in class, but ONLY for work related to this class. This is a zero-tolerance policy: any off-task computer use will result in the immediate forfeiture of the privilege of using a computer in class for the remainder of the semester. All other electronic devices, including phones, must be turned off and stowed away during class.

Disabilities:  If you have a disability, it is important that you contact me early in the semester for any help or accommodation you may need.

Academic Advising in History: All L&S students have to declare and complete an academic major to graduate. If you have earned in excess of 45 credits and have not yet declared a major, you are encouraged to do so. If you are interested in declaring a major or minor in History, or require academic advising in History, please visit the Department of History’s undergraduate program web page, at: http://uwm.edu/history/undergraduate/ for information on how to proceed.

Academic integrity at UWM: UWM and I expect each student to be honest in academic performance. Failure to do so may result in discipline under rules published by the Board of Regents (UWS 14). The penalties for academic misconduct such as cheating or plagiarism can include a grade of “F” for the course and expulsion from the University.

UWM policies on course-related matters: See the website of the Secretary of the University, at: https://www4.uwm.edu/secu/news_events/upload/Syllabus-Links.pdf

There are two required textbooks:

Gies, Joseph, and Frances Gies. Life in a Medieval Castle. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974; rpt Harper & Row, 1979. (Listed below in Topics and Readings as “Gies and Gies, Life.”

Macaulay, David. Castle. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.


There will also be additional required reading assignments from online resources, and also from the books and articles listed below. They are available for HIST 192 in D2L, and are also available as printed books in the Golda Meir Library.

Additional assigned readings, available in D2L and also in the Golda Meir Library:

Bennett, Matthew. “The Medieval Warhorse Reconsidered.” In Medieval Knighthood, V. Papers from the Sixth Strawberry Hill Conference, 1994. Ed. Stephen Church and Ruth Harvey. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1995, pp. 19-40.
Call no.: CR4513 I34 1994

———-. “The Status of the Squire: The Northern Evidence.” In The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood. Papers from the First and Second Strawberry Hill Conferences. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Ruth Harvey. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1986, pp. 1-11.
Call no.: CR4513 I34 1986

Brown, R. Allen.  Allen Brown’s English Castles.  Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 2004 (reprint of 1976 edn, with new Introduction by Jonathan Coad), pp. 140-149 (the castle in war).
Call no.: DA660 .B85 2004

Gies, Frances, and Joseph Gies. Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages. New York: Harper and Row, Perennial Library, 1987.
Call no.: HQ513 G53 1987

———-. Women in the Middle Ages. New York: Harper and Row, Perennial Library, 1978.
Call no.: Q1143 G53 1978

Holmes, Urban Tigner, Jr. Daily Living in the Twelfth Century. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1952.
Call no.: CB353 H65

Labarge, Margaret Wade.  A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965, rpt 1980, Chaps. 1 (pp. 18-37), 3 (pp. 53-70), 7 (pp. 116-128), and pp. 166-172, plus notes on pp. 203-4, 206-7, 212-13, 216-17.
Call nos.: DA185 L3 and DA185 L3 1980

[Professor Labarge’s book was subsequently reprinted under a different title: Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century, London: Phoenix Books: 2004 (ISBN: 1-84212-499-4; ISBN 13: 978-1-84212-499-4). It is the same book as A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century.]

Labarge,Margaret Wade.  A Small Sound of the Trumpet.  Boston: Beacon, 1986, Chap. 4 (“Women Who Ruled: Noble Ladies”), pp. 72-97, plus notes on pp. 243-4.
Call no.:  HQ 1147 .E853 L33 1986

Paterson, Linda M. “Military Surgery: Knights, Sergeants, and Raimon of Avignon’s Version of the Chirurgia of Roger of Salerno (1180-1209).” In The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood, II. Papers from the Third Strawberry Hill Conference, 1986. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Ruth Harvey. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1988, pp. 117-146.
Call no.: CR4513 .I34 1988

Peirce, Ian. “The Knight, His Arms and Armour in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” In The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood. Papers from the First and Second Strawberry Hill Conferences. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Ruth Harvey. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1986, pp. 152-164.
Call no.: CR4513 I34 1986

Pisan, Christine de.  The Treasure of the City of Ladies.  Trans. Sarah Lawson.  Harmondsworth, Middlesex, and New York: Penguin, 1985, pp. 128-133.
Call no.: PQ1575 L56 E52x 1985

Pounds, N. J. G. The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Call no.: DA660 P68 1990

Prestwich, Michael. Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996.
Call no.: DA60 .P74 1996

Prestwich, Michael. “The Garrisoning of English Medieval Castles.” In The Normans and Their Adversaries at War: Essays in Memory of C. Warren Hollister.  Ed. Richard P. Abels and Bernard Bachrach.  Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2001, pp. 185-200.
Call no.: U37 .N67 2001

Shahar, Shulamith.  Childhood in the Middle Ages.  Trans. Chaya Galai.  London and New York: Routledge, 1990, pp. 209-224, 320-325.
Call no.: HQ792 E8 S53 1990

Singman, Jeffrey L.  Daily Life in Medieval Europe.  Westport, Conn., and London : Greenwood Press, 1999, pp. 17-27 (plus notes on p. 32), 46-50, 57-64, 119-138
Call no.: D119 .S55 1999


There is a useful online Timeline of British History, 1066-1485, which includes brief biographies of English kings, at:



Topics and Readings


4 September    Introduction to course

6 September    Where were the castles of medieval England? (Assignment 1)



11 September      Gies and Gies, Life, pp. 1-20

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: William I

13 September       Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 2 (pp. 32-56

Henry of Huntingdon: Baronial behavior in Stephen’s reign,



18 September     Assignment 2 due

Gies and Gies, Life, pp. 21-31

Macaulay, pp. 5-37

Pounds, pp. 102-6, 126-9

20 September     Macaulay, pp. 38-63

Master James of St. George: biographical sketch, and letter concerning building progress at Beaumaris Castle (see both websites below)



25 September      Assignment 3 due

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 3 (pp. 57-74)

Holmes, pp. 18, 82 (mid-page) -87, 178 (last paragraph) -191

27 September      Labarge, Chap. 1 (“The Castle as a Home”), pp. 18-37

Singman, Daily Life in Medieval Europe, pp. 46-50, 126 (mid-page) – 138

Description of a manor house, 1265

A poor knight’s household, from Chrétien de Troyes, Erec and Enide, vv. 342-546



2 October             Assignment 4 due

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 4 (pp. 75-94)

Labarge, A Small Sound of the Trumpet, Chap. 4 (“Women Who Ruled: Noble Ladies”), pp. 72-97.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus, On the Properties of Things (man and wife)

30 September

Gies and Gies, Women in the Middle Ages, Chap. 7 (pp. 120-142): “A Great Lady: Eleanor de Montfort” [Note that this is a different book by the Gieses than your course textbook!]

Pisan, Part II, Chaps. 9-10, pp. 128-133: “Of baronesses,” and “How ladies and young women who live on their manors ought to manage their households and estates”



9 October             Assignment 5 due

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 5 (pp. 95-108)

Labarge, Chap. 3 (pp. 53-70)

11 October            Prestwich, “The Garrisoning of English Medieval Castles.”

Singman, pp. 46-53, 57-64

Household Expenses of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, 1313-1



16 October           Assignment 6 due

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 6 (pp. 109-124) and Chap. 11(pp. 206-216)

John Russell, Boke of Nurture (c. 1460): How to serve one’s master at table

18 October           Labarge, Chap. 7 (“Cooking and Serving of Meals”), pp. 116-128

Holmes, pp. 87 (bottom) – 94



23 October           Assignment 7 due

Gies and Gies, Marriage and the Family, Chap. 10 (pp. 196-217):
“Children in the Middle Ages” [Note that this is a different book by the Gieses than your course textbook!]

Singman, Daily Life in Medieval Europe, pp. 17-27 (notes on p. 32)

25 October           Shahar, pp. 209-213 (notes on pp. 320-322): “Education in the nobility”

Sophie Oosterwijk, “The Medieval Child: An Unknown Phenomenon?”

Gies and Gies, Marriage and the Family, pp. 141-145

An aristocratic education, from John Harding’s Chronicle (c. 1457); and the ideal squire, from Philippe de Remi, sire de Beaumanoir‘s Blonde of Oxford(Jehan et Blondec. 1250-65)



30 October        Assignment 8 due

Shahar, pp. 214-224 (with notes on pp. 322-325): “Education in the nobility”
“Schooling” (9 extracts from the writings of Guibert of Nogent and others)
https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/medieval-memory.asp – Schooling

“Distichs of Cato” (a medieval schoolbook for teaching Latin) – read editor’s introduction, and then click on “The                            Monostichs, as `Prologue’” and read that page also:

1 November        “Medieval Writing — The Laity”  (read both websites below):


“The Duenna’s Advice on Table Manners,” from Jean de Meun’s continuation
of The Romance of the Rose, late thirteenth century

“The Little Childrenes Little Boke,”  circa 1480



6 November         Assignment 9 due

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 9 (pp. 166-185)

Fief ceremonies, 12th cent.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “In Praise of the New Knighthood,” read editor’s note and Chapters 2 and 4

8 November        Peirce, “The Knight, His Arms and Armour”

Singman, Daily Life in Medieval Europe, pp. 119-126 (mid-page; notes on p. 138)

Male clothing and knightly armor of the 1250s:
Read the first page (about men’s underwear) and then click on “next” in upper right corner of screen to read all 11 pages of this site):

View website below to see a re-enactor manufacturing chain mail

Re-enactors of c. 1300: look at the following photos to see how clothing and armor actually fit



13 November       Assignment 10 due

Bennett, “The Medieval Warhorse”

Prestwich, pp. 30-37

15 November       Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 7 (pp. 125-146)

Labarge, Baronial Household, pp. 166-172 midpage (plus notes on pp. 216-17)

Edward, Duke of York, The Master of Game, Chaps. 33-34



20 November       Assignment 11 due (2-minute oral reports)

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 10 (pp. 186-205)

Macaulay, pp. 64-78

The Lanercost Chronicle: Robert Bruce besieges Carlisle, 1316

 22 November     [THANKSGIVING DAY. NO CLASS. ]



27 November      Assignment 12 due

Pounds, pp. 106-13 (“siegecraft and defense”)

Prestwich, pp. 1-4, 11, 219-22, 231-43

Allen Brown, Allen Brown’s English Castles, pp. 140-9

29 November      Pound, pp. 122-5 (“garrison and supplies”)

Prestwich, pp. 185-193, 198-200, 206-218, 245-54



4 December          Assignment 13 due

Pounds, pp. 113-21 (“castles in medieval warfare”)

Fulk of Chartres: The Capture of Jerusalem, 1099

Warfare Between England and Scotland, 1299 – 1301,
according to Documents from the English Government

6 December          Prestwich, pp. 281-304

Jean Froissart (1338-1410?), Chronicle (read all three of the
following selections at the website below):
1) editor’s introduction
2) “A few Scots capture Berwick”  (in Book II)
3) “The English recapture Berwick”  (in Book II)



11 December        Assignment 14 due 

Paterson, “Military Surgery”

Mark Brennand, review of Blood Red Roses: The
Archaeology of a
 Mass Grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461

Battle injuries: skeletons from the Battle of Towton, 1461

The Towton Mass Grave Project

13 December        Pounds, pp. 249-260, 269-75, 295-300

Gies and Gies, Life, Chap. 12 (pp. 218-224)


There are 14 weekly assignments: a map project (Assignment 1), an oral report (Assignment 11), and twelve essays. Fifty percent of your final grade will be based on ten of these weekly assignments (5% each): Assignment 1 (map project), Assignment 11 (oral report), and your eight best essays.  That means that you must complete at least eight of the twelve essays.


Assignment 1:  SEE HANDOUT.


Writing assignments and oral report (Assignments 2-14):

Write one full page (no more, no less!) on the weekly topic.  Your paper must be double-spaced, using Times Roman 12-point font.

Document your text fully with endnotes and bibliography, placed on a second page. (On documentation, see handout). Parenthetical citations are not acceptable.

You must base your paper on at least one primary source and one scholarly secondary source from the week’s readings for each assignment. You may supplement these with additional sources from the course syllabus, if you wish. You may not use any sources that are not on the course syllabus, with the exception of maps or illustrations (if desired).You may not use any sources that are not on the course syllabus, with the exception of maps or illustrations (if desired).  (On primary and scholarly secondary sources, see FAQs, below.)

College-level writing, using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation, is required. The point of these papers is for you to read the assigned sources carefully and to use them to produce a genuine piece of historical research, packed with factual details, so no fantasy and no “time-travelers,” please. 


Assignment 2:
It is the year 1290. You are a master mason who has been hired to design a new castle for an English lord in Wales. Describe two special design features that you intend to include.

Assignment 3:
The year is 1300. You are an elderly lady or lord, living in a castle in Wales. Describe three of your castle’s most inconvenient or uncomfortable features.

Assignment 4:
You are the lady of a castle. Is your life easier, or more difficult, than that of the lord of a castle? Discuss.

Assignment 5:
You are a dishonest steward.  Describe your most lucrative fraud.

Assignment 6:
You work in a castle kitchen as a cook or cook’s assistant. Describe a typical day’s work.

Assignment 7:
You are the senior nursemaid in charge of the young children of the lord and lady of the castle.  A new junior servant has been ordered to assist you.  Describe for this assistant four of the most common hazards of castle life from which the children must be protected.

Assignment 8:
You are an adolescent boy or girl being educated in a castle.  Which parts of your education do you enjoy the most? Which the least?

Assignment 9:
The year is 1250. You are a castle knight.  Describe your weapons and armor.

Assignment 10:
You are a guest (male or female) in a castle.  A hunt is planned for tomorrow.  Describe what game you hope to take, and how.

Assignment 11:
ORAL REPORT to be delivered in class (2 minutes long and no longer!): You are a spy (male or female) in a castle.  What important information have you been ordered to discover?  How will you do this?  How will you get the information back to your lord?

Assignment 12:
The year is 1300.  You are a senior officer whose lord has asked for some military advice. Describe the advantages and the difficulties of using a trebuchet in a siege.

Assignment 13:
You are a lord or lady who is defending a castle against a strong attack. Describe your worst problem and how you might solve it.

Assignment 14:
You have been injured during a siege. Describe your injuries and their treatment.



  1. “How can I tell if something is a primary source?” Answer: A primary source is an “eyewitness” source, one that dates from the period that you are studying.  Examples of primary sources for the medieval period include chronicles, account rolls, letters, and legal documents, and also works of art, architecture, pottery, coins, skeletons, and other artifacts.  A source that dates from a later period is a secondary source.
  2. “What defines a secondary source as ‘scholarly’?” Answer: For the purposes of this class, only works (including websites) that are fully documented with footnotes or endnotes are considered scholarly. A bibliography alone is not sufficient. (Thus, neither of the two course textbooks qualifies as scholarly.)