The Irish tower house

Society, economy and environment, c. 1300-1650

By Victoria L. McAlister

The Irish tower house


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  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2123-3
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: May 2019
  • BIC Category: Architecture: castles & fortifications, Archaeology by period / region, 14th century, c 1300 to c 1399, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, HISTORY / Medieval, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology, Ireland, Humanities / Medieval history, Humanities / Archaeology, Medieval European Archaeology, Irish History, Irish Studies, Medieval History, History, Archaeology, Material culture, Ireland, European history: medieval period, middle ages, Early 17th century c 1600 to c 1650
  • Series: Social Archaeology and Material Worlds


This book examines the social role of castles in late-medieval and early modern Ireland. It uses a multidisciplinary methodology to uncover the lived experience of this historic culture, demonstrating the interconnectedness of society, economics and the environment. Of particular interest is the revelation of how concerned pre-modern people were with participation in the economy and the exploitation of the natural environment for economic gain. Material culture can shed light on how individuals shaped spaces around themselves, and tower houses, thanks to their pervasiveness in medieval and modern landscapes, represent a unique resource. Castles are the definitive building of the European Middle Ages, meaning that this book will be of great interest to scholars of both history and archaeology.


'This is a well-produced and attractive book, and McAlister has demonstrated her ability to write in a clear and accessible fashion, creating a text that is sure to be consulted by anyone engaged in the study of castles in late medieval Ireland.'

'This is an informative and refreshing approach to tower house studies [.] This will become an important book for anyone studying many aspects of medieval and early modern Ireland.'
Ulster Archaeological Society

'McAlister's volume is ambitious and sets out to do what it intended, and is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to the study of tower houses - indeed it is the first large scale work to focus solely on tower houses, something which came of a surprise to the reviewer. Any reader will come away with a richer understanding of these ubiquitous structures on the Irish landscape.'
The Standing Stone

[.] a well-researched and useful study of the economy of Ireland during this period and the place of the tower house in that economy.'
Vernacular Architecture


1 Around the castle wall: the tower house complex and rural settlement
2 The medieval agrarian economy: lifeblood of the tower house
3 Rivers in pre-modern Ireland: environment and economy
4 Movement, transport and communication: tower houses and waterways
5 'Urban' tower houses
6 Tower houses, late medieval Ireland and the connection with the wider world
Conclusion: the social, economic and environmental contexts of the Irish tower house


Victoria L. McAlister is Assistant Professor of History at Southeast Missouri State University

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