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The bastides, or fortified towns, of south-west France were the new towns of the Middle Ages. The very first, Cordes, was founded early in the thirteenth century, and others were built and developed right up to the seventeenth century, affording their people both protection and prosperity. The architecture of the bastides is as stunning as their rural settings. It is characterized by elaborate double rings of fortifications, huge arcaded market squares, chequerboard urban layouts, and exquisite combinations of wood and stone pillars and vaulting. James Bentley gives an authoritative and entertaining history of the hundred most important bastides, their origins, their fate during France's many wars, daily life within their walls and their unique architectural style. He also provides a gazetteer of all the 200-plus remaining examples, with maps and aerial photographs.