In this chapter we provide an overview of the evolution of defensive design and construction from prehistoric times to the modern era. Although the primary focus of this book is on modern applications of place-based crime prevention strategies, there is much to be learned from the durability of ideas, especially in a field whose applications stretch back into the distant past. Thus, while the use of present-day crime prevention strategies such as urban and building designs and devices aimed at impeding access or facilitating surveillance and territorial control may seem obvious and intuitive, they are nevertheless rooted in experience that spans centuries as well as cultures. Indeed, one could go so far as to say that the history of defensive design parallels the history of humankind. That being said, we make no pretence to exhaust the totality of defensive design experience, as it would be presumptuous to think we - or anyone - could do so in one modest chapter. Rather, we touch upon pertinent examples of defensive designs as a starting place to understand how we got to where we are today and where we may be going in the evolution of place-based crime prevention. We are especially interested in the adaptability of predators - whether invading armies of the past or criminals within our midst today - to the range of successive defensive and protective design strategies and devices that we employ to perplex and impede them.
Because they are so central to the history of defensive design, we focus primarily on the planning, design and construction of walls at the boundaries of cities, citadels, castles and empires. We consider their real and symbolic roles in providing protective edges, their impacts on city form, their vulnerabilities to changing technology and to the adaptive strategies used by predators, their relationship to isolationism, and their linkage to perceptions of security.
Within these contexts, we make connections to modern-day place-based crime prevention issues and principles, such as territoriality, surveillance, access control, activity support and maintenance. In so doing, we suggest that similar defensive design needs and strategies are identifiable throughout history and that they are much more important in determining the form and evolution of urban places and human behaviours than they have been credited.