From Publishers Weekly
In this compelling volume, Medieval history expert Mortimer (The Fears of Henry IV) transports readers to jolly, squalid old England for a thorough survey of everyday 14th century life. Going beyond the "nasty, brutish and short" of it, Mortimer's immersive visitor's-guide approach to popular history gives readers a seamless sense of being there. The population is young-"Half of the population is aged twenty-one or less"-but incredibly diverse. The idea that social classes were distinct and few-fighters, prayers, and farmers-gets exploded in Mortimer's examination society and the Medieval character, including everything from humor and juggling to mariners to doctors. Mortimer even argues, convincingly, over relative standards of hygiene ("to regard a medieval kitchen as 'dirty' because it has not been wiped down with modern detergent is to apply our own standards inappropriately"). He also looks at the role of period's four greatest writers of the time , and reveals the horrors of contemporary medicine (with terrifying descriptions of the plague) and law (the outskirts of every town were decorated with the hanged corpses of minor criminals). Mortimer's toungue-in-cheek vistor's guide is an impressive accomplishment, turning 600 years of history transparent to give 21st century audiences a clear view on Medieval life.
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"Amazing...an incredible tour de force." -- Alison Weir
"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