The use of the city, as a battlefield has been implicit in the preceding chapters. This urban function, providing places where battles are fought, has such an obvious and fundamental importance to cities, that it should now be made explicit and be considered from the point of view of those attacking or defending them.
A major difficulty in attempting this is the deeply entrenched military opinion, that goes back many centuries, that cities are places where battles should not be fought. Consequently, when it occurred in urban areas, conflict tended to be regarded as an unfortunate aberration to be avoided in future, rather than an example to be analysed so that lessons for the future could be drawn. The literature on military practice, although generally full of advice on the choice of battle sites, has therefore tended (with very few exceptions) to avoid this class of terrain altogether.
Throughout most of recorded military history, warfare could be divided into two clear arenas of action: battles and sieges. The first was undertaken by ‘field’ armies (the choice of terminology is itself revealing) which manoeuvred against each other until engaging in selected open terrain, chosen by one or both parties. The resulting battle may then have decided the fate of countries, empires, dynasties, and the cities over which they ruled. The second was a static confrontation in which fortified cities were besieged and blockaded. The outcome, whether the surrender of the town or the lifting of the siege, was generally determined without fighting within the city itself.
Fighting in the city itself was not in the interests of the civilian inhabitants of such a battlefield (whose lives and property would inevitably suffer even if they were not the principal objective of the attack). Nor was it of interest to the military authorities on either side, who regarded fighting in the city as