S2E12: Historic Castles & GIS Technology, with PhD Student Ali Norton

July 23, 2019

Whether it is their history or architecture that captivates you, or whether you’ve encountered them in person, on pages, or on screen, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is not intrigued by castles.

This was especially true for historian Ali Norton. Originally hailing from North Carolina, Ali travelled across the ocean to pursue her passion for castles at the University of Exeter where she is currently completing her PhD.

Join us this week as Ali shares her research on England’s rural earth and timber castles. With little remaining evidence of these lesser-known structures in the physical environment, Ali uses GIS technology to explore rural castles and their relationship with the historic landscape, lordly identities, and East Midlands settlement.

About Our Guest

Ali Norton is a PhD student at the University of Exeter.  She holds an MA in English Local History from the University of Leicester, and a BA in History from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her areas of research have been the local histories of England’s East Midlands and Southwest Peninsula looking at how Normans influenced local identities through their castle building and analyzing their decisions using GIS.


  • Learn more about Ali’s favourite castles, Tintagel.


Liddiard, R. Castles in Context. Cheshire: Windgather Press, 2005.

Creighton, O. Castles and Landscapes. London: Equinox, 2002.

Renfrew C. The Exploration of Culture Change: Models in Prehistory. London: Duckworth, 1982.

Gregory, I.N. ““A Map is Just a Bad Graph”: Why Spatial Statistics are Important in Historical GIS.” In Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS are: Changing Historical Scholarship, edited by A.K Knowles, 123-149, California: ESRI Press, 2008.

Gaffney, V., Stančič, Z,. and H. Watson. “The Impact of GIS on Archaeology: a personal perspective.” In Archaeology and Geographical Information Systems, edited by G. Lock and G. Stančič, 211-230. London: Taylor & Francis, 1995.


Hosts: Robin Mullins and Keely McCavitt

Guest Host: Ali Norton

Special Thanks: Samantha Clark

Producers: Robin Mullins and Emily Cuggy

Audio Editing: Jessica DiLaurenzio

Web Content: Casandra Masse

Image Credit: Ali Norton