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The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century Hardcover – December 29, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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"An amazingly detailed social history...From wages to wardrobes, [Mortimer] reconstructs what everyone from all walks of life did on an everyday basis and speculates about what they were thinking while they were doing it. A gem for history buffs as well as travelers." -- BOOKLIST
"[Mortimer] sets out to re-enchant the fourteenth century, taking us by the hand through a landscape furnished with jousting knights, revolting peasants, and beautiful ladies in wimples. It is Monty Python and the Holy Grail with footnotes and, my goodness, it is fun." -- KATHRYN HUGHES, THE GUARDIAN
"After The Canterbury Tales this has to be the most entertaining book ever written about the Middle Ages." -- SUE ARNOLD, THE GUARDIAN
"Perhaps the most enjoyable history book I've read all year." -- PROFESSOR STEPHEN HOWE, THE INDEPENDENT
"The resulting portrait of the era is as lively as it is informative. His work of speculative social history is eminently entertaining but this doesn't detract from the serious and thorough research involved." -- ANGEL GURRÍA-QUINTANA, FINANCIAL TIMES
More About the Author
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 has published 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
Top Customer Reviews
The book covers virtually every aspect of life and death in Fourteenth century England, from the highest royalty to the lowest peasant (peasants, Mortimer explains, did not call themselves "peasants", but instead would have conceived themselves as members of some subset of society as "rustici" -- countrymen -- or "villani" -- villeins). Social hierarchies, food, clothing, housing, law and order, medicine, travel ... Mortimer seemingly touches upon and describes every aspect of life. He deliberately limits himself to a single century as "medieval" actually covers too extensive a slice of time for accurate summary and even so the author frequently addresses changing behavior over the course of that single century.
A vast amount of information is conveyed in an engaging, lively style. In the very first chapter Mortimer emphasizes his approach to social history by submerging the reader in an ocean of sensory imaginings, descrbing sights and sounds and especially smells of a visit to a medieval English city. And repeatedly thereafter the author reinforces this "you are there" experience. All in all, this is an excellent and highly vivid look at a past era.
There's a lot here I already knew, but a lot I didn't--for example, that pockets were introduced during this century, as were differentiated shoes (left foot versus right, in other words). It's details like this, that you wouldn't normally think are important, that really are important in daily life. At first, the present-tense writing threw me off; but, as Mortimer says in his introduction, once you begin understanding history as happening rather than as has happened, then you'll better understand the complexities of fourteenth-century life.
As the back of the book paraphrases LP Hartley, "the past is a foreign country, they did things differently there..." It's not that things were bad or wrong with the way that people lived six hundred years ago; it's just that people back then had different ways of seeing the world. Take, for example, the chapter on health and medical practices. It's not that medical physicians and surgeons (two different things, up until the 17th century) were ignorant in the sense that we mean it; it's just that they used different areas of knowledge to make a diagnosis and treat a patient. Doctors and surgeons in the fourteenth century probably had as much knowledge as doctors do today--they just used things such as astronomy, religion, and blind faith in their practice. I wish the author had focused a little more on religion and education, however.Read more ›
There were a few glaring omissions: maps!!! There should have been a general English one, as well as a map of London and other places mentioned, as well as drawings of the houses and such that he describes. There was also nothing about child rearing or discipline, schooling or apprentiship. I was very surprised to see that he left out midwives and herbalists from the section on medical practitioners. Otherwise, this is a very written book that I would recommend to others.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An entertaining way to look at another period as if I lived through part of it. I would shorten the trip by 25% however.Published 5 days ago by Rodgers L. Harper
A terrific essay that takes the imaginative reader into the medieval world better than almost anything else that's out there—and makes the reader damn glad to be here!Published 22 days ago by Majhul
I love history and am fascinated by daily life rather than wars and the big events we know about. I like to understand how the average person lived and this book answered those... Read morePublished 24 days ago by Kathy Felgran
Author does his best to make the 1300s seen alive to the reader and overall does a good job. Book was short enough to get through quickly but still have enough substance.Published 1 month ago by ElvisMA
This was a fun and enlightening book that's a great way to guide those who have discovered a fascination with the medieval world into the subject without being daunting. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jordan
If you're interested in Medieval England and you've gotten most of your information from movies, TV, or novels, there are two problems: first, they deal mostly with the upper... Read morePublished 1 month ago by sgtyukon
The recipient was delighted with this book as she was reading a novel set in Medieval times. Good writing and lots of information authored by a historian.Published 1 month ago by BillH