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Military Influence on European Town Planning

This article by Heather Norris and Roger Kain illustrates some of the ways in which increasingly elaborate methods of town fortification affected the nature of urban development in European towns, and how the eventual removal of anachronistic defences provided opportunities for large scale urban redevelopment, extension and embellishment.

Today, attitudes have come full circle. Many of the fortification remnants that escaped demolition in the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries are now much cherished as touchstones of the past.

Among the many factors which have influenced the evolution of post-medieval urban form in Britain, defensive considerations have exerted a relatively slight effect compared with their impact on the continent of Europe. The well-preserved Tudor defences of the frontier town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the hastily built Civil 'War outworks at Newark-on-Trent and defensive installations at naval bases such as Portsmouth are exceptional in a British context. By the sixteenth century in England, most medieval town walls were falling into ruin or had already been demolished and built over. On the other hand, in parts of continental Europe where military strategy was still founded on systems of fortified towns, defensive considerations remained continuing influences on urban form through to the nineteenth century.

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