British Forts in the Age of Arthur by Angus Konstam

Forts in the Age of Arthur by Angus Konstam is a wonderful book of 61 pages.  The book chronicles the various forts that the Post-Roman Britons inhabited during their long struggle to defeat the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons.  Although some of the fortifications were old Roman forts, a majority of them were either built by the Britons or re-occupied fortifications of the Iron Age (the time before Roman occupation).

The book is divided into several headings, including:The Design and Function of ‘Arthurian’ Fort; A Tour of South Cadbury – Camelot; Forts and Warfare in the ‘Arthurian’ Age; and Aftermath (what happened after the Saxons conquered the Britons).  Interlaced with the text is a number of full-color illustrations of the fortifications and the artistic renditions of historical figures like Vortigern and Arthur.  Konstam also includes modern photographs of the fortifications.

One of the strengths of the book is the part on the Forts and Warfare in the ‘Arthurian’ Age.  Konstam mentions two very interesting points about the warfare of this time period.  One, the armies during were not very large – many made up of a few hundred men.  Thus, the forts were not very large because there were not enough men to defend all of the walls.  Two, the advantage was normally on the defensive side if the walls were stout enough because the technology to make siege weapons from Roman times was lost.  Thus, defenders could wait out the attackers if they had enough food.  In addition, the geography of the forts required attackers to either climb or attack in narrow corridors.

For any person interested in the time period when Britain hung in the balance between Briton and Saxon, this is a must-have book.

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