Book Review
Forts An illustrated history of building for defence
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Forts, An illustrated history of building for defence is a large format hardback book from Osprey Publishing, LTD. As part of their General Military series it is merely catalogued as GNM,and as ISBN 9781472827630. Osprey's web page lists the author as The National Archives although it is by historian and Professor Jeremy Black. The hardcover book has 224 pages, and the title is also available in ePub and PDF formats.

Why a coffee table book about forts on a modeling site? Because forts are cool and provide inspiration and technical ideas for dioramas. Historicus Forma, ModelGeek, and even Armorama host subjects natural to fortifications.

Osprey introduces this books thusly:
    Ever since humans began to live together in settlements they have felt the need to organise some kind of defence against potentially hostile neighbours. Many of the earliest city states were built as walled towns, and during the medieval era, stone castles were built both as symbols of the defenders' strength and as protection against potential attack. The advent of cannon prompted fortifications to become lower, denser and more complex, and the forts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could appear like snowflakes in their complexity and beautiful geometry. Without forts, the history of America could have taken a very different course, pirates could have sailed the seas unchecked, and Britain itself could have been successfully invaded.

    This book explains the history of human fortifications, and is beautifully illustrated using photographs, plans, drawings and maps to explain why they were built, their various functions and their immense historical legacy in laying the foundations of empire.

I enjoy maps, especially older ones. I once tried to incorporate the look of ancient maps into my artwork. Hence, this book was a welcome surprise when I acquired it.

Forts is a large format book, 11" x 11". This concise history of forts is presented through seven chapters:
    The medieval castle
    The sixteen century
    The seventeenth century
    The eighteenth century
    The nineteenth century
    The twentieth century

The organization of this book generally presents a subject in a spread with text on one page and an image on the facing page. Text describing the image is partitioned from the main text.

Forts of various sorts from all over the world are presented, from established dirt and fallen timber creations to the marvels of engineering we know today. Field fortifications are also included. The author narrates why forts were positioned where they were, and why some forts were abandoned or fell into disrepair. Cultural factors are explored in fort building, as well as the effects of civil wars and city states. Forts were often improved and expanded over the decades and that subject is included. Forts usually required logistical support for supply and that subject is also explained.

Those examples are but a fraction of fort considerations and characteristics. Examples of forts are not limited to those in Asia, Africa, Middle East, India, South America, or central Europe. Notable (mainly occidental) forts include Gibraltar, Scapa Flow, Chittaurgarh, Gallipoli, Metz, Maginot Line, and Bar-Lev Line.

A short preface muses on the definition of a fort before giving way to Origins. It considers the first fortresses and spotlights Maiden Castle, Gwalior Fort, and Hadrian's Wall.

Next, The medieval castle explains the castles and their eventual threat, cannon. It also discusses the intriguing wagon fort. A selection of fort types are presented.

The eighteenth century introduces North American forts as the British and French and Spain claimed parts of the New World. The nineteenth century and The twentieth century build upon the previous chapters as well as introduce new topics.

Very interesting work!

Photographs, Art, Graphics
An excellent gallery of photos and artwork support - and sometimes outshine - the text. Every spread features at least one image. Some spreads have all images except for a caption. I did not bother to count the photos and illustrations although there must be over 120. Many images are photographs while illustrations of the era are also used, paintings, sketches, engravings and etchings, "blueprints," surveys, and the like. A reproduction of building accounts is fascinating. Gibraltar is shown in a two-page spread of four watercolors.

Images consist of portraits and surveys of fortifications, maps of friendlies and enemies, and even fields of fire to protect or reduce a fort. Usually, I spend more time scrutinizing the images than reading the text.

Osprey's Forts, An illustrated history of building for defence is a very interesting and appealing book. Concise as it may be, it provides a good tour of forts around the world and through history. The text is interesting and the gallery of images really makes the book.

Fortification modelers and historians of the nineteenth century and earlier - as well as later wars - should find this book interesting and full of ideas.


Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on KitMaker Network.
Highs: An excellent gallery of photos and artwork. Concise, interesting topics.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: Fortification modelers and historians of the nineteenth century and earlier - as well as later wars - should find this book interesting and full of ideas.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472827630
  PUBLISHED: Jan 11, 2019

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Nice review Fred. Looks like an interesting book. Thanks, Randy
JAN 19, 2019 - 04:14 AM

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