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The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval…
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The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for… (2008)

by Ian Mortimer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Time Traveller's Guide (1)

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2,060705,003 (4.04)142
A time machine has just transported you back to the fourteenth century. What do you see? How do you dress? Where will you stay? How do you earn a living and how much are you paid? What sort of food will you be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? This is not your typical look at a historical period. This radical new approach shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. All facets of the everyday lives of serf, merchant, and aristocrat in this fascinating period are revealed, from the horrors of the plague and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and medieval haute couture.--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 142 mentions

English (67)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
This is one of the liveliest history books I’ve ever read. Don’t expect dry facts. Expect instead an engaging narrative throughout.

All that can be covered in fourteenth-century England is covered, including long-forgotten street names, like Pissing Alley and Shitbrook Street.

If you’re interested in medieval history – or even if you aren’t – give this a try. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Apr 10, 2019 |
There is a lot of good material in here and it was fun to read. BUT

The author is a man and writes for men. Now and then he admits that there were women around back then, but it doesn't occur to him that a woman might want to time travel.

The idea of this being a guide book is a very thin veneer that gets forgotten as soon as he gets into the material he wants to share. So much so that when he next brings it up it comes as a shock. ( )
3 vote MarthaJeanne | Jan 13, 2019 |
Ian Mortimer comes up with a very entertaining way to teach us about fourteenth century England--he actually plops us down right in the thick of things and tells us exactly what we are seeing with our own eyes as we walk through the towns, cities and countryside. He also tells us what we smell and hear, where we live, what we eat, and how we are dressed. Packed with fun facts and surprises, Mortimer is a terrific tour guide, and this book is a must for people who enjoy this historical period. ( )
  AndrewGaddes | Sep 17, 2018 |
4.5 stars

An excellent overview of England in the 14th century in the form of a guidebook. Overall it was very readable and entertaining, although some diagrams might have been useful in the clothing and fashion discussions since I wasn't always sure what the author meant. There were pictures but they were all of mediaeval artwork.

Should you read it? I'd say it depends on whether you have any interest in 14th century England and whether you agree with the author when he writes the following: "there is no reason why we cannot consider medieval England as a living community. It is just another place in time, like France in the twenty-first century, or Germany in the twentieth, and so on. Knowledge of it as it actually was might be difficult--impossible even--but so is knowledge of England as it actually was yesterday. If we accept that the evidence available to us in writing about any place in any time is always going to be partial and incomplete--including a modern country which could be physically visited (for you cannot see all of it at once, or meet everyone)--then certainly one can write a guidebook to medieval England which in theory is as comprehensive and accurate as a guidebook to a modern country." ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
Superb popular history centred on the lived experience of people and the culture shock a visitor would have. But it also makes a strong case for not judging the past by the present, and for liberating history from academic accounts by telling the story of the 'living past'. ( )
  adzebill | May 10, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
The pleasure of reading Mortimer's "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England" is its Fodor's-style framework. "A travel book about a past age allows us to see its inhabitants in a sympathetic way," writes Mortimer, "not as a series of graphs showing fluctuations in grain yields or household income but as an investigation into the sensations of being alive in a different time."
 
Ian Mortimer doesn't hold with any fancy notion about the past being impossible to know. Not for him the postmodern practice of confining historical discussions to the sources and letting "once upon a time" take care of itself. What Mortimer wants is living history, loud and close. In The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England he sets out to re-enchant the 14th 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.

 
The result is a book that, like his biography of Henry IV, fascinates and frustrates in equal measure. By far the best sections are those in which Mortimer stays truest to his conceit, and writes as though his ideal readers really are time-travellers, peeping out through the doors of their Tardis at a world which unsettlingly mixes the familiar and the bizarre. He has a novelist's eye for detail, and his portrait of an England in which sheep are the size of dogs, 30-year-old women are regarded as so much "winter forage", and green vegetables widely held to be poisonous has something of the hallucinatory quality of science-fiction.

 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Mortimerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dyer, ChristopherForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Venables, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The past is a foreign country—
they do things differently there.

L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between
Dedication
For my wife, Sophie,

without whom this book would not have been written

and whom I would not have met

had it not been for this book.
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What does the word "medieval" conjure up in your mind?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Despite the similar title, this book is not part of Flame Tree Publishing's series of Time Travellers Guides to London.
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Book description
The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook

A time machine has just transported you back to the fourteenth century. What do you see? How do you dress? How do you earn a living and how much are you paid? What sort of food will you be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? And more important, where will you stay?

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England is not your typical look at a historical period. This radical new approach shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. All facets of everyday life in this fascinating period are revealed, form the horrors of the plague and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and medieval haute couture.

Through the use of daily chronicles, letters, household accounts, and poems of the day, Mortimer transports you back in time, providing answers to questions typically ignored by traditional historians. You will learn how to greet people on the street, what to use as toilet paper, why a physician might want to taste your blood, and how to know whether you are coming down with leprosy.

From the first step on the road to the medieval city of Exeter, through meals of roast beaver and puffin, Mortimer re-creates this strange and complex period of history. Here, the lives of serf, merchant, and aristocrat are illuminated with remarkable detail in this engaging literary journey. The result is the most astonishing social history book you're ever likely to read: revolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance, and fear.
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