The castles of Ireland, captivating in the variety and ingenuity of their designs, are an essential part of the history of medieval Europe. Unlike the castles in England, however, they haven't been studies until recently. "Castles in Ireland" explains how a comprehensive study of the documents and physical remains of medieval castles can tell us the stories of the lords who ruled them and the builders who made them.
Much is revealed in these structures made for aristocrats, as the physical is integrated here with the historical story. We learn about Ireland as a setting for the interplay of differing competing lordships: English and Irish; feudal European and Gaelic; royal and baronial. Also in the studying of relations of neighboring castles and in contrasting the pattern of castle building with that of Europe, T.E. McNeill documents the collapse of the lords early hopes of great wealth in Ireland, the weakness of royal power and the consistent neglect of defensive development against domestic comfort at all times. Through his examination of archaeological evidence, the author concludes that contrary to assumptions made about the establishement of English estates in Ireland in the 13th century, the English and Irish found the land and their mutual occupation a peaceful one.