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Reframing ‘the Anarchy’: Castles, Landscapes and Society in Twelfth-Century Lincolnshire and Yorkshire

Prescott, Ryan


Ryan Prescott



The reign of King Stephen, c. 1135-54, was condemned by nineteenth-century historians as a period of anarchy and castles have often been seen as a cause or symptom of its instabilities. Although many aspects of Stephen’s reign have been reappraised in more recent years, an archaeological perspective of these castles is still lacking. Benefiting from advances in archaeological research, newly-funded projects, and the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS), this regional study provides an overview into how the civil war between Stephen and Matilda impacted Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Disproving the assumptions of contemporary chroniclers that unlicenced castles were hastily built in large numbers in disregard for the Crown, took short-lived, rudimentary forms, and were located solely in militarily advantageous locations; the interplay between these structures and their landscapes shows that castle-building by the time of the mid-twelfth century was more complex and like the post-Conquest era, was moulded by an infusion of tradition and innovation. As very few sites were seemingly damaged or destroyed during ‘the Anarchy’ from the physical evidence available to us at the present time, the social, economic, and political qualities across many of these monuments highlights that local magnates were conscious of the long-term benefits of this landscape; typically siting their castles regardless of the struggle for the throne. This desk-based assessment argues that the reign of King Stephen did therefore not represent such radical departure from the preceding and subsequent reigns, and should be characterised as a period of societal change and continuity.


Prescott, R. (2023). Reframing ‘the Anarchy’: Castles, Landscapes and Society in Twelfth-Century Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 2, 2024
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2024
Keywords History ; Archaeology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of History
University of Hull
Award Date Mar 14, 2024


Thesis (13.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2023 Ryan Michael Prescott. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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