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The trouble with paradigms. A historiographical study on the development of ideas in the discipline of castle studies

  • David Mercer

In the years leading up to the First World War the academic understanding of the earthen mounds we know as mottes underwent a series of dramatic changes. Exploration of the paradigms behind these viewpoints tells us much about the way in which knowledge comes into being and is used. In particular, archaeologists have created their own foundation myths, complete with hero and demon figures, which serve to emphasize a progressive account of research. The reality is often somewhat more reactionary. In this paper I argue that archaeological histories have impeded understanding of the discipline as the complexities of research remain hidden. As viewpoints become entrenched, creative thought is stifled because the subject is believed to be understood. In castle studies, one a-priori paradigm is that the English motte-and-bailey castle was introduced by the Normans, an idea commonly attributed to Ella Armitage. This paper explores the context behind the adoption of this idea through a case study focusing on changes in understanding. Acrimonious dismissal of alternative points of view has maintained the dominance of this paradigm. I conclude that critical historiographies such as this best serve the development of future understanding of the discipline.

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Archaeological Dialogues
  • ISSN: 1380-2038
  • EISSN: 1478-2294
  • URL: /core/journals/archaeological-dialogues
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