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The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England Hardcover – June 27, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rarely does a travel guide stand the test of time quite like this colorful and hypothetically practical portrait of Elizabethan England. Historian Ian Mortimer, a former fellow of the Royal Historical Society, escorts the Anglophile on a tour of his native country five centuries ago, where 3s could buy you a personal tour of the Tower of London's dungeons. Disguised as a trip-planner, this lively historical account stays true to form offering readers travel advice such as fashion trends (ruffs and ruffles rule), diet tips (avoid tomatoes), and much-needed safety notes such as why bathing is unhealthy and how many arrows to keep on hand. On the topic of good manners, it is customary to remove your hat when in the presence of public urination and true gentlemen greet women with a full-on kiss on the lips, a custom that possibly explains why in 1563, over 17 thousand people succumbed to the plague. Motimer explores many facets of England's "Golden Age" with intricate detail yet a lightness in tone. He riffs off fellow scholars to fill the gaps in this upbeat and in depth account. Wildly entertaining, Mortimer fresh approach to history will draw in many types of readers. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (June)

From Booklist

Having previously taken readers on a tour through fourteenth-century England in The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England (2009), Mortimer now serves as our guide to the “golden age” of Elizabeth I. He starts off with the geography of country and town, then makes stops to examine the cultural and social landscape, providing details of religion, dress, food, medicine, transportation, law, entertainment, and more. Along the way, he pulls aside the curtain to peek at private life from the highest levels (Elizabeth) to the family of “an unemployed hatter with one leg” getting by on alms of three pence per week. Mortimer is the best sort of tour guide, chatty and convivial as well as extremely knowledgeable. He makes the Elizabethan era come alive, offering a perspective that will be appreciated by fans of the how-they-lived-then genre, as well as those who want to enhance their reading of history and historical fiction. --Mary Ellen Quinn
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (June 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026074
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr Ian Mortimer is best known as the author of 'The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England', which was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK in 2009 and 2010. Its Elizabethan follow-up was a Sunday Times bestseller in 2012.

He is also the author of a series of four sequential medieval biographies, 'The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer' (covering the years 1306-1330), 'The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III' (covering 1327-1377), 'The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King' (covering 1377-1413) and '1415: Henry V's Year of Glory' (covering 1413-1415). A volume of scholarly essays, 'Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies' provides several of the in-depth pieces of research that support the more difficult and contentious aspects of these books, and includes his important essay on understanding historical evidence.

He was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine. His PhD was published by the Royal Historical Society in 2009 as 'The Dying and the Doctors: the Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England'. He is also the author of two volumes of early modern manuscripts and numerous articles in the scholarly press on subjects ranging from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

He also writes poetry and fiction, the latter using his middle names 'James Forrester'. The Clarenceux trilogy of novels, set in the 1560s, is published by Sourcebooks in the USA.

He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor. For more information, see www.ianmortimer.com

Customer Reviews

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By BowedBookshelf on July 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
We all know why Elizabethan England fascinates us and Ian Mortimer is a wonderful guide. His sense of humor and level of detail bridges any gaps in understanding why Elizabethan England may not be a place we would want to live. Mortimer expects us to have pre-conceived notions and questions that develop as we read. We may, for instance, ascribe to the notion that Elizabethan England was a period of the flowering of art and language, and it was...to a point. By carefully going through all the contingencies of leadership, life, and labor, he shows us that it was difficult at best--the early, and not quite thought-out beginning of city living. Cleanliness and sanitation were two of the most off-putting descriptions Mortimer shares, but we also shrink at "medical care" and the somewhat arbitrary nature of punishment and death.

On the pro side, world-wide exploration was in its infancy, and it must have been thrilling to discover new products coming in from overseas, changing the way people thought about their own culture. People were reading--even women--and while much of what was available to them were religious tracts, there began to be something more as the period (1550-1600) wore on. Mortimer gives us statistics on how many books were being published and the results are startling.

My greatest interest in the period had been language: there are so many words no longer in use which seem to capture something unique in the lives of people at the time that I find them fascinating. Mortimer is likewise taken, for he spends some time explaining words, even words we use now for their meanings might well have changed since the sixteenth century.
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Format: Hardcover
The past is indeed a different country. People do things and think things differently there. Ian Mortimer has brought the sights and sounds and especially the smells of Elizabethan England. Earlier this year I read "The Time Traveler Guide to Medieval England so was hooked on this excellent British author and scholar. Mortimer's style is intimate as if he were leading us benighted modern tourists on a fascinating trip back to Elizabethan England (1558-1603), The book is rich in descriptions of such varied topics as the landscape, food; crime and punishment; the arts; sanitation and health care; the people; entertainment; religion and how people made their livings. You can open this book on any page and be both enlightened and entertained. A sampling of quotations will give you insight into Mortimer's fine book:
"London is...vastly more populous and geographically larger than anywhere else in the kingdom."-p. 15
"the impressive bulk of London Bridge is greatly enhanced by the shops and four-story houses constructed across it."-p. 19
"...you will see the same high proportion of young people as in the fourteenth-century."-p. 26
"There are three distinct professions or vocations in England: the law, the Church and medicine."-p. 38
"Whereas the resident poor are mostly women, three-quarters of the itinerant poor are single men."-p. 47
"Violence is endemic throughout the kingdom."-p. 80
"One book above all others transforms reading; the English Bible."-p. 85
"It is not surprising that one in ten books published during the reign is in a field of science"-p. 102
"Long term inflation increases in the sixteenth century."-p. 124
"You will need a horse if you intend to travel along the roads of England."-p.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Toste on July 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I was a First Read Winner of this book and I liked it. I feel like I am well equipped to travel back in time and visit Elizabethan England, all I need is a Time Machine. This book makes for some interesting reading and is filled with lots of information that you normally never hear about. This will be a great book for any history buff or anybody who is curious as to what life was like then. I for one am glad I live in this century.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Trtek on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In this volume, a follow-up of sorts to the author's Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer provides us with a grounding in Elizabethan customs, mores and perceptions, as well as a feel for what the times, well, felt like. And smelled like. And sounded like. And so on. Previous reviewers have provided a wealth of typical material in the book, so I won't repeat those examples or search for new ones. It's enough to say that if you really want to get into the late 16th Century English mindset, this is an engaging and enlightening way to start. This is looking at the underside -- sometimes literally -- of history in a truly fun way. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dana Keish on July 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England
The past is like visiting a foreign country and what better thing to have than a guide? That is the premise behind author Ian Mortimer’s latest book. If you magically were transposed to say 1585 London, how would you wash your clothes? How much would food cost? What is the most common food to eat? Could you afford a horse? What type of medicine would be available if you got sick? How would you wash your hair? These are the type of questions that anybody interested in history loves to know. Nothing gives you a better since of the past than to understand how everyday people lived. What I learned about Elizabethan England was that it was much more similar to our time than we suspect. People enjoyed reading, going to plays, holidays, etc. But it was in sanitation and medicine that you can really appreciate the strides that our world has made. Basically if you got sick, you were on your own, hoping the doctor didn’t actually make it worse. Sanitation, forget about it!
Author Mortimer is an excellent writer, using statistics to give you an overall view of the time period as well as anecdotes which enliven the story immensely. It seems like every page contained a factoid you need really thought about it. I known I bored several people with little tidbits I picked up in my reading! Recommended highly and as works on history goes, this is something of a “beach read-easy and light yet you will learn quite a bit.
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