York's Military Legacy

Ian D Rotherham

Date Published :
January 2018
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Series :
Military Legacy
Illustration :
80 b/w & 40 color images
No associated books available.


One of the oldest settlements in Western Europe, York grew up on dry land with protective rivers and associated wetlands giving security and mobility. Early, prehistoric settlement was on nearby drier, raised areas along the flood plain. Here the Romans built a great, northern, fortified city and military settlement from which they could foray overland into northern England or by ship and the coastal route to Scotland and the Picts. York’s significance was emphasized when Constantine was made Emperor whilst residing there.

Lean times followed after Roman abandonment and Saxon neglect before the Vikings swept into northern England, with Jorvic, reborn as their capital, York, much to their liking. Once subsumed into Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, York continued its huge strategic and military significance through late Saxon times, during the Norman Conquest, and into medieval England. Indeed, two of the most far-reaching battles in English history were fought at nearby Fulford and Stamford Bridge. York’s military significance grew again during the Wars of the Roses, with the Battle of Towton in 1461 described as the most barbaric ever fought on British soil.

Following oscillating and vicious disputes over religion during the reigns of the later Tudors, divisive and punitive civil war played out again under the Stuart kings and Parliamentary Commonwealth. Through all this, York was a major strategic location in northern England; an important base for those commanding it, a significant prize for those who did not. This military importance declined into modern times but the city retains garrison and regimental ties. The last direct conflict occurred when York was targeted for retaliatory Baedeker raids by German bombers during April 1942\. York’s remarkable history and longevity, and its significance in English and sometimes international politics and economics, have left a unique, unparalleled military history.

About The Author

Ian Rotherham discovered York Castle on a childhood trip by steam-train from Sheffield in the 1960s, and has been going back ever since. He is Professor of Environmental Geography and Reader in Tourism & Environmental Change at Sheffield Hallam University; as an ecologist and historian, he is a worldwide authority on landscape history, urban environments, and environmental aspects of conflicts. He has researched and written about York and Yorkshire for many years, campaigning for their conservation, improvement, and wider promotion. Having published over 500 papers, articles, books and book chapters, he has a popular BBC Radio Sheffield ’phone-in and writes for local and regional newspapers, particularly the _Sheffield Sta_r, the _Sheffield Telegraph_, and the Yorkshire Post. His book Yorkshire’s Forgotten Fenlands (Wharncliffe, 2010) is one of several he has written on York and Yorkshire. Ian lectures widely to local groups and works with bodies like the Wildlife Trusts, Natural England, Historic England, English Heritage, the National Trust and the RSPB. A Regional Tourism Ambassador for Sheffield and South Yorkshire, he works on major tourism and conservation projects across the county. He is a Fellow of the York-based PLACE (People, Landscape and the Cultural Environment) research centre.

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