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Walls Research Paper


A wall is understood as a solid structure that serves to define a particular boundary or offer protection of a particular zone. Walls can be building or separation. Separation walls can be either solid wall, line or a fence that are meant to prevent the movement of people from one state or empire to another like in the case of the Berlin wall, a wall can also be used to separate populations like Israel security fence.

Consequently, a wall can be meant for security or defense purposes like the Great China wall. Generally, walls are used to form a boundary. In this essay, I will discuss five walls, namely:

  1. The Hadrian wall
  2. The Great wall of China
  3. The Berlin wall which separated East Germany from west Germany
  4. Moroccan wall
  5. The Maginot line between the border of France and Germany
  6. The Israel security fence between the border of Israel and Palestine

Hadrian Wall

The Hadrian wall was a defensive barrier constructed in Northern Ireland cutting across the Great Britain. The wall was constructed by the Roman Empire, and it was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, and hence it was named after him. Hadrian’s Wall was the most fortified one and the main role that it served was a military fortification.

It had several gates that functioned as customs post which enhanced flourishing of trading activities and to facilitate the levying of taxation for the empire. The wall was first constructed as an earth fortification structure that was fitted with wooden parapets and the stone version was later constructed.

According to Emperor Hadrian, the wall was meant to keep the barbarians away. Hadrian’s Wall was constructed under the guidance of the Roman emperor called Hadrian in the period 122 C.E. The wall is located in Great Britain, and it was aimed at keeping off the Caledonians of Scotland. The wall was build mainly from mud and stones it stretched 120 kilometers from the Solway down to the Tyne River near Newcastle.

The Hadrian wall is approximately 120 kilometers in length and was made of stone. The wall was constructed with the main intention of keeping the Roman Empire intact. Hadrian’s Wall is a living remnant of Roman ruin with its value as an archeological site extending to more than two centuries ago.

According to the Roman emperor, protecting the empire required the definition of their boundary. Previously, boundaries were road marked by military, while some other boundaries were redefined by rivers; but still there was a need for a boundary with a uniform design and hence the Hadrian wall was constructed.

This wall was an elaborate one with three different defensive features namely: a ditch, stone curtain wall and a large earth work. The wall ran 75 miles from the sea.

There were, however, some frontiers that were not complex and elaborate, these were: the Germania Hadrian wall which was earlier fronted by a ditch and later replaced by an earth bank, there was also the Britannia Hadrian wall which was later replaced by Antonine wall and was not built in stone.

Consequently, the wall was made up of four main elements: the curtain wall, the ditch, the military path and the earthwork that is currently referred as the Vallum.

There were also other organic structures which formed the frontier system; these were the mile castles, the turrets and the forts which accommodated the military garrison. There were also forts, fortlets and watch towers that extended down the Cumbrian coast (Fields 2003).

A particular section of the wall is still in existence to date and that is the Hadrian’s Wall path that people can explore by foot and the national cycle 72 section that one can follow using a bicycle. The wall is presently one of the famous tourist attraction sites in Northern Ireland.

The Hadrian’s Wall was made a UNESCO heritage site in 1987 and the English heritage labeled it as the greatest monument in Great Britain that was built by the Romans.

It was made a member of the frontiers of the Roman Empire world heritage which included some heritage sites in Germany. A portion of the wall referred to as the Northumberland National Park which is located along the Hadrian wall is a major tourist attraction centre (Steves 2011).

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was constructed approximately 200 years ago by Emperor Qin shi Huangli after he subjugated and united the great china. His main intention was to stop any foreign invasion of the Chinese territory. It is considered the largest defense construction ever built on earth.

The wall was constructed on the northern part of China, and it served to protect the Han Chinese from attacks by nomadic tribes like the Hun and the Mongols. The Great Wall of China was constructed by using natural materials including and compacted soil; Wood was seldom used because it was assumed that it would catch fire easily during a raid, but bricks were as well used.

The great wall was constructed in turn and twist format by the Chinese due to the belief that it could be instrumental protecting the China people as well as representing the long back of the mighty Chinese dragon. It was in their beliefs that making the wall appear like a back of a dragon could act as a good omen that would guarantee victory for the Chinese in the event of war.

The great wall is the largest wall in the world, it is approximately 4,500 meters in length and it was built completely by hand. The wall crosses the northern part of China from the eastern coast through the north-central part. The lowest point of the wall is the Laolongtou, at sea level while the highest point in meters is in Beijing with 1, 534 meters (O’Donnel 2003).

The wall was fitted with a watch tower after the intervals of 180 meters. These watch towers were used to store weapons, to house the troops as well as creating fire signals, which acted as a warning to China in case of an impending attack. These signal towers were particularly built on the hilly sections of the wall to enhance visibility.

In the Great wall, there were also beacon towers which were positioned at an interval of 15 to 30 meters along the sections of the wall; the main function of the beacon towers was to relay information, it was assumed that beacon towers relayed information faster than horse riding. There also existed close to three people in each signal tower whose duty was to create the fire.

There were sections of the wall which were constructed with hard material so as to make it hard for attacks. The Great Wall of China had buttresses constructed at particular intervals along the sections of the wall for soldiers to store their equipments. The wall also had holes through which the soldiers could fire the enemy (O’Neill 2009).

Purpose of the Great Wall of China

The Chinese constructed the Great wall as a measure of hindering the northern troops from attacking the Chinese victory. Consequently, the Great wall was aimed at preventing the Chinese from the Mongols’ attack as well as defending the territory from ferocious nomadic tribes. Furthermore, the great wall represented a great deal for protection in case of any battle.

The great wall was also intended to house the troops and to safeguard the Silk Road by ensuring that nothing goes wrong. Housing the troops was necessary due to the fact that in the event the great wall was under attack, it could be easy for the soldiers to come out easily and defend the territory.

There are eight important walls of the great wall and the Badaling wall is the most preserved and treasured part because it is the prominent peak and is made up of rectangular slabs that were strategic during the war. There is a cable car and great wall museum in the Badaling which is a major tourist attraction site. Badaling wall is the most commercialized section of the Great wall.

The Great wall was constructed in four phases at different dynastic reigns, all with a length of approximately 5000 kilometers. The first phase of the Great wall was constructed by the Qin dynasty; the second one was built by the Han dynasty; the third Great Wall was built by the Jin dynasty and; the fourth phase of the Great Wall was constructed by the Ming dynasty (Evans 2006).

Following the unification of China, the great wall could not serve its function as a defense structure and instead it was turned into a traveler’s site and the United Nation Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized it as a cultural heritage in 1987. Travelers can visit several parts of the wall for sight seeing, camping and hiking.

There are only three Chinese citizens who have walked around the whole wall from Shangaiguan which is the eastern part to the Jiayuguan which is the western part of the wall and it took them exactly 508 days. Besides the wall being the number one line of defense, it is currently considered China’s leading historic site as well as a national symbol.

It is a medieval wonder of the world which makes it the number one tourist attraction site in China particularly after losing its strategic importance as a defense structure. According to the World Tourism Association, the number tourists who have visited the wall by 2004 were approximately to be 41.8 million.

The Berlin Wall

Immediately after the end of the Second World War, Germany was split into four zones and each zone was occupied by a separate power namely the United States, United Kingdom, France and the USSR. This prompted the division of Berlin, which was central, into four zones, though it was dominantly in the hands of the Soviet. This division prompted the creation of two different countries from one country.

The other three powers joined together and created the West Germany while the Zone held by the USSR became East Germany. This led to the split of the capital Berlin. This split of Berlin took the dichotomy of East and west which represented communism and capitalism respectively.

Due to the perception that West Germany was more prosperous as compared to the East Germany led to the mass migration of East Germans and it is estimated that approximately two million East Germans crossed over to West Germany.

To prevent this mass migration, the communist Government of East Germany constructed the Berlin wall. The wall existed as a psychological ‘iron curtain’ that separated the two countries of Germany (Tucci & Rosenberg 2009).

The Berlin wall was a physical structure that separated the East and the West Germany and it was a symbolic wall as well one that demarcated capitalism and communism. Berlin wall is the modern of all the walls; it was erected in 1961 by the communist government with the intention of making it hard for the East Germans to leave their country. It separated East Germany from West Germany.

The wall had guard towers built in the concrete walls. The main aim of constructing the wall was to stop emigrations and defections that characterized East Germany and its communist bloc during the cold war period. The Berlin divided two contrasting parts of Germany, the West Germany which was considered as prosperous, more developed and an ally of the United States of America.

The USSR considered West Germany as an infection in the communist country of East Germany under communist control. Each side of Germany had its own reasons for the construction of the wall. According to West Germany, the wall was aimed at preventing the USSR from assuming control of the entire Germany while the East had the desire to maintain its autonomy as an independent state.

It also aimed at preventing the flow of refugees from East Germany, particularly the skilled and the professional groups who had the intention of assuming labor in Germany.

The Berlin wall brought a lot of misfortunes to the people of Germany. Families were split as a result of the wall while several lives were lost when people attempted to cross the wall.

Reasons for the Construction of the Berlin wall

To protect the special status of West Berlin

The USSR and its communist allies considered the wall as an alternative measure of preventing the western powers and the U.S. from accessing the city and to prevent them from infiltrating into the communist state of East Germany.

Increased unpopularity of the government of East Germany

The communist government of East Germany had grown unpopular following the uprising caused by the USSR tanks and the fact that it had fallen to West Germany made it to rely only on arms to maintain control. It was the differences in living standards, immigrations problems and the fear of Soviet Union that are primarily linked to the construction of the wall.

The fear of the Soviet by the West Germany was due to the paranoid nature of Stalin and the fear prompted the migration of approximately half a million people from East Germany to West Germany due to the unfavorable nature of communism hence the need for the wall to prevent further migrations.

Berlin was chosen as a better position of the wall because it remained accessible and was administered by the four powers that occupied Germany thus Berlin was the main root linking the two countries. The Berlin’s wall was brought down in 1989 after the collapse of socialism. Just like the time span that it took the wall to be created, its destruction was also instantaneous and it was celebrated by the all world.

Size and Scope of the Berlin Wall

The wall covered several miles and it cut the town of Berlin into two. It underwent transformation during its 28 years of existence. It first started as a barbed wire fence supported by concrete posts and after some few days the fence was replaced with permanent structure of concrete blocks but with barbed wire at the top.

The two versions of barbed wire and concrete blocks were later replaced by another version in 1965 which was a wall made of a concrete wall with steel girders. The fourth and the last version were erected between the period1975 to 1980 and it was the extremely complicated one.

It was made up of concrete slabs of almost 12 feet high and 4 feet wide as well as a smooth pipe which ran across its top so as to prevent people form scaling over the wall. The length of the wall was 140 kilometers with 302 watch towers and the height was 13 feet. It is estimated that 192 people were killed in the Berlin wall while close to 200 hundred were injured (Peters, 2009).

Moroccan Wall

The Moroccan wall was also known as the Berm of Western Sahara. It is a 2700 kilometer wall structure that was only meant for defense. The wall was built by the Moroccan military forces for seven years, between 1980 and 1987. The wall was three meters high and it was aimed at dividing the country of Morocco and the territory of Western Sahara.

The wall runs from the Western Sahara and some portions of Morocco; the wall served the purpose of separating two sections of the Moroccan empire: the Moroccan controlled area and the territory controlled by Polisario. A section of the wall goes into the state of Mauritania. The wall was constructed by the use of berm or sand. Other names of the wall are: the Berm or the Wall of Shame.

The wall is constructed across inhabited territory and is layered up to three meters high. It has bunkers and land mines throughout. There is a mine belt across the wall that is considered to be the longest in the world.

There are six lines of berm that make up the wall and the main line is that of fortification which is estimated to be 2,500 km that runs from Western Sahara to Nouadhibou, which is a town in Mauritania and a section parallels to Morocco border.

The wall led to the identification of Western Sahara territory that was controlled by Morocco and Polisario area of Sahrawi Democratic Republic which is inhabited by refugees from Algeria. The first phase of the wall was built between 1980 and 1982.

The breaches, several walls, fences and bunkers that are part of the wall form a very strong obstruction. There are strict surveillance points which are named as observation posts and are placed at regular intervals for effectiveness (Mobile References, 2010).

The government of Morocco constructed the wall so as to protect its crucial phosphate mining industry from several interested parties which included colonialists and the Polisario. The first phase of the wall was approximately 400 miles and it was made of sand and rock and it was topped with sensors and explosive mines. It was later extended by 800 miles and was aimed at driving away the Sahrawi civilians.

The Moroccan wall was aimed at annexing the Western Sahara state to prevent its recognition as autonomous (Minahan 2002). The wall led to the separation of the Sahrawi families who found themselves locked in different sides of the wall.

The Maginot Line

This was a defensive zone that was constructed in 1930 so as to protect France from German invasion. The line was made up of underground tunnels, artilleries, anti-tank obstacles and several other defensive structures. The line was 320 kilometers long close to the France- Germany border. This line, however, did not serve its purpose because Germany managed to invade France by bypassing the line through Belgium.

With the development of aircraft as instruments of modern warfare, the line has been considered to be obsolete (Tucci & Rosenberg 2009). The line was named after the France minister of war Andre Maginot. The line was aimed at allowing the France army time to prepare before undertaking any invasion.

The line was feasibly impervious from any form of attack and it featured state of the art living conditions for the French army. It was a massive series of fortifications, it is considered the most fortified fence ever constructed and termed as an abject failure since it failed to serve its intended purpose.

Israel Security Fences

This is the most prominent wall today and still under construction. It is 681 kilometers long. It is a combination of wire fencing, trenching, roads and raised walls. This fence had a lot of psychological effect on the people of Palestine, particularly those living in the West Bank. The wall is combined together with several networks of road blocks, check points, curfew and travel restrictions (Slim 2010).

The fence is still under construction. The fence is primarily aimed at preventing all forms of attack form the Palestinians. The fence has been considered to be effective since it has helped reduce the number of attacks from the Palestine. The fence follows the truce line or better called the Green Line demarcated during the 1948 war of independence.


Evans, T 2006, Great Wall of China: Beijing & Northern China, Bradt Travel Guides, New York.

Fields, N 2003, Hadrian’s Wall AD 122-410, Osprey Publishing, New York.

Minahan, J 2002, Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z, Greenwood Publishing Group, New York.

Mobile References 2010, . Web.

O’Donnel, K, 2003, The Great Wall of China, Rosen Classroom, New York.

O’Neill, J & Dimberg, R 2009, The Great Wall of China, ABDO, New York.

Peters, J 2009, The Berlin wall. Web.

Slim, H 2010, Killing Civilians: Method, Madness, and Morality in War, Columbia University Press, Columbia.

Steve, R 2010, Rick Steves’ England 2011, Avalon Travel, London.

Tucci, P & Rosenberg, M 2009, The Handy Geography Answer Book, Visible Ink Press, New York.

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