China possesses the world’s longest tradition of fortified buildings and settlements, yet its study has always been hampered by an understandable tendency for any researcher’s eyes to be irresistibly drawn towards the magnificent and romantic structure that is the Great Wall of China. This can unfortunately take one’s attention away from the fine city walls that have protected not only China’s capitals, but almost every urban community, for many centuries.

Although nowadays they are often pierced by modern roads and railways; and sometimes even demolished to make room for them (Beijing being a notorious example), extensive sections of the walls of several of China’s fortified cities still stand as splendid memorials of ancient defensive systems.

There has, however, been a welcome trend within recent years for wholesale and usually sensitive restoration, so that many now look as formidable as they ever did and are often more rewarding to study than the famous Great Wall, because even though the defences of the finest fortified cities may appear to the casual eye as no more than the Great Wall in miniature, this is usually only in terms of the wall’s overall length. Other details are sometimes finer, because in contrast to the sometimes monotonous repetition of defensive features on the Great Wall the city walls have a variety and an intricacy about them that their big brother lacks. Nowhere do they defer to it in width or height, nor in the splendour of their gateways and their towers. Also, unlike much the Great Wall, Chinese city walls saw a lively operational history, an uncomfortable fact of life for the inhabitants who depended upon them so often in China's violent history.

The finest Chinese walled city of all is the perfect Pingyao. Its entire Ming circuit is preserved with no high rise buildings within it. Restoration has been carried out for several years, and considerable landscaping work was going on around the perimeter when I visited it in 2007. The admission fee for walking the walls is high, and the impression is given that this is an admission fee to the city itself, which it is not. It is still worth every penny, and provided one of the finest wall walks of my life, but as there are very few places where one may descend from the walls the visitor should check his watch before setting off on a very long trek! I chose to complete the circuit over two days, one half being on top of the walls and the other walking outside. The buildings within the city are all of modest dimensions, and give the finest impression anywhere of old China.

Although the terra cotta warrior’s are Xi’an’s biggest tourist attraction, Xi’an’s Ming walls are breathtaking, and are best seen by riding a bicycle round the top of them. Bicycles are hired from offices helpfully located on top of the walls. The sheer scale of the long straight sections is quite amazing. The vast inner courtyards of the wengcheng are most impressive, and there are reproduction siege machines dotted about. Several of the huge gate towers have been restored, and the two Wild Goose Pagodas are beautiful ancient structures. A fine model of Chang’an is on display in the otherwise rather strange Tang Paradise. This is a Tang Dynasty Theme Park for tourists, which includes some reconstructed buildings as well as sideshows, acrobatic displays and the like. It is the perfect antidote for anyone who has overdosed on terra-cotta warriors!



This book, which has been a labour of love, and a long time coming, tells the story of knightly warfare from the Fall of Constantinople to the Thirty Years' War. In a sense it is a companion volume to The Knight Triumphant, because it begins where that book finished. It was a time of great change and bold innovation. We see the introduction of siege artillery and the 'diabolical' wheel-lock pistol. There are the angle bastions and the galleys; the battles of Lepanto and Fornovo, as well as the sieges of Rhodes, Belgrade and Pskov.

It is illustrated with original pictures including works of art from across Europe.



The greatest surviving medieval fortifications are the walls of Constantinople (Istanbul), that withstood sieges for over one thousand years.

For my latest project I walked the entire length three times. We have included marvellous reconstructions, and photographs for which I risked life and limb! The picture here is a cutaway of a tower.



This is the first account in English of the Great Wall of China from the military point of view. I have walked extensively along much of the Ming wall, and supplemented my personal research with other material. There are original photographs, maps and superb reconstructions.