The fortifications of the sixteenth century differ little from those of medieval and ancient times with regard to key features such as moats, towers, and walls.
The fortifications of the sixteenth century differ little from those of medieval and ancient times with regard to key features such as moats, towers, and walls. In the field of strategic use, as they had in the past, fortifications provided protection for key positions and served a strategic role as part of greater defensive lines. This role became more dominant in the twentieth century. However, such continuous lines of defense were not unknown before the modern period, as attested by the Great Wall of
During the modern era, new forms of fortifications supplanted the castle and fortified cities in Europe. However, medieval-style fortifications remained in use in most of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Thus, the major fortified sites of Japan, China, and the Indian subcontinent are more reminiscent of medieval cities than modern ones. Many fortifications in the Americas were also built in the more archaic style, with some notable exceptions, such as the sixteenth century Inca fortress of
It has long been assumed that the cannon brought about the demise of the castle in Europe. However, this is not totally true. Although
The first of these “improved” fortifications were built in western Europe. Italian
At Salses, in modern-day southwestern France, a modernized fortification was built in 1498, improving on the Italian designs.
At the end of the 1530’s, King Henry
During the Renaissance, new forts built to secure key positions were large enough to resist the increasingly large armies that moved across Europe. When the Europeans arrived in America, they secured their hold on the land whenever possible with the newest type of stone fortifications. Otherwise, they relied on wooden stockades not much different from those used in the Middle Ages. The most interesting transfer of technology occurred in the sixteenth century, when the Portuguese helped the Ethiopians build castle-like fortifications at Gonder in northwestern Ethiopia. The influence of the new Renaissance techniques began in
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries marked the great age of “scientifically designed” fortifications. The masters of the art perfected their designs based on mathematical calculations, only modifying final plans to match the terrain. During this period, the
During the sixteenth century the Italians lost their dominance in the field of military architecture and were replaced by the Germans, the Dutch, and the French, who developed their own schools of fortifications. The Dutch mathematician Simon
The French school included such masters as Jean Errard de
Vauban based much of his work on that of Pagan but also emphasized the use of detached bastions, claiming that their fall would not result in the loss of the entire fort. One of the best examples of Vauban’s first system of fortification is the citadel of
Some of the important features of the bastioned fortifications of the Vauban era included the bastion, bonette, caponier, casemate, counterguard (a ravelin with a redoubt), counterscarp, covered way, crown work, detached bastions, glacis, hornwork, lunette, ravelin, and tenaille, which were used to protect the curtain.
The new fortifications in France and some other countries also defended key ports, forming coastal defenses; others guarded mountain passes; others still were incorporated in a loose line covering the exposed frontier. There were no solid lines of defenses, but an army of the period would have had either to eliminate these positions or to leave its lines of communications exposed. Many older fortifications still remained in service, and some played a prominent role in conflicts such as the English Civil War of 1642-1651.
The eighteenth century did not bring any major changes in fortifications design. In the mid-eighteenth century, John
A transitional phase began late in the eighteenth century when the threat of French invasion lent a new importance to coastal
Interesting innovations appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The Prussian school of fortifications adopted the earlier ideas of Montalembert, opting for a polygonal design and replacing bastions with
Raymond Adolphe Seré de
A sectional diagram of the Maginot line, defensive fortifications built along France’s eastern border to protect against German invasion.
Both France and Germany adopted armored galleries and
In the 1930’s, influenced by the Verdun experience, the French built the Maginot
The Germans also built subterranean forts on their East Wall in the 1930’s, but after 1936 they created a new type of fortified line, the West
After World War II, the heavily defended gun-bearing fortifications forming continuous defensive lines were largely abandoned in favor of smaller strongpoints and lighter border defenses. The Cold
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Sieges and Siege Techniques: Modern