Osprey's Forts: An illustrated history of building for defense


Jeremy Black


Osprey Publishing




Scott Van Aken

Notes: 224 pages, hardbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-2763-0

From the earliest times of humanity, there has been a need for people or groups to defend themselves. This could have been as simple as defense from animals to defense against other people. These defenses could have been thickets, or caves, or trees, or being on hilltops. Eventually, these defenses became permanent and more involved. They also evolved into defenses against other people or nation-states and in the process became quite large and complex.

For the purpose of this book, we are concerned with the evolution of defensive positions and this really got underway during medieval times with castle building. These served the purpose of providing a definition of one's territory and it was not uncommon for these to be built when one expanded the territory. It was important for these to be relatively close to each other so that men from one could go to the aid of another. They also evolved into places where people lived and as much a show of prosperity as any sort of military purpose. This was especially true in areas that were already under the control of the lord or king.

As time progressed, the size and the science of these fortifications grew. Even into the 20th century forts were considered a requirement for the defense of a nation. While they have grown somewhat out of favor, nations still have bases from which to operate that perhaps are not required to withstand a siege or an onslaught of enemy troops, but are nonetheless important to project a nation's power. One needs to look no farther than the Chinese building in the disputed areas of the South China Sea to witness this.

The author of this book has taken great pains to search the archives for the most complete and informative plans of various forts to illustrate the book. Thanks to the large format of the book, these can be shown in considerable detail. The book is divided into several sections starting with medieval days before starting into specific centuries starting with the 16th and moving all the way up to the 20th. In each section the changes in design, often required by changes in weaponry and tactics, are discussed with multiple examples how forts in various parts of the world dealt with local conditions.

It makes for a book that is a superb read for anyone interested in the subject and an excellent reference on this important part of military history. Highly recommended.

October 2018

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