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The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century (2008)

by Ian Mortimer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Time Traveller's Guide (1)

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3,099934,444 (4.02)186
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 186 mentions

English (89)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (93)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
This is a really worthwhile read. Mortimer knows his stuff, and presents us with a vivid account of life in 14th century England. He invites us to explore daily life in town and country, among the rich and the poor. We spend the night with a yeoman, with a noble family, sharing their food, their home comforts and customs. We experience the difficulties of travel from one end of the country to another at a time when most people's entire lives were lived within a few miles of where they were born. We journey on foot, or horseback, even by sea and face doing so without decent infrastructure, maps, and without feeling particularly safe. The meals we eat are unfamiliar, as is our medical treatment. We face the realities of day to day life in a society very different indeed from our own, and finish the book with a much clearer appreciation of what such a life might have been like. It's a book amusingly written with a light touch. This is no dry text book. Read and enjoy. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
Excellent approach at a history book. Keeps the pace fast, and keeps interest with wit and humor. ( )
  sawcat | Apr 9, 2024 |
The Time Travelers guide to Medieval England is superb. I read tons of History, particularly English History and this was an incredible change of pace. There is so much in this book that honestly caught me by surprise. It is humorous, to the point and very well researched. I learned names of things I had no idea about regarding food, musical instruments and while I thought I was fairly familiar with the Medieval Legal system and punishment it did not take long to realize that there was much I was missing.
In direct contrast to “A World Lit Only By Fire” By William Manchester (which I found horrendous). Mortimer instills in us that the inhabitants of the 13th century were people just like us. They lived, they survived and died. It was their world and they were no different than us because they used what they had and did what they needed to. They were not savages as Manchester put it. The author of this book makes it clear that we cannot hold ourselves above them because we appear to be more civilized. Instead we should take a moment to put ourselves in their shoes and this will give us a newfound respect for them and make us appreciate what we have that much more. In 800 years someone will be saying the same thing about us. Well written and easy to read this book is also a love letter to Chaucer, who is referenced numerous times. I will surely be reading the rest of this series. ( )
  JHemlock | Apr 8, 2024 |
This book was a real treat to read. It reads more like a travel book than a history book, which really helps bring the 14th century to life. The author does a great job of telling you how it is and asking the reader to withhold judging these Medieval people with our modern eyes. Simply see how they lived and understand all the factors that went into that way of life. Mortimer details many aspects of life from entertainment to law and order to living conditions. And he spares no section of the populace, so you learn how the King and nobles lived as well as the merchants, freemen, and villeins (peasants).

I'm looking forward to the guide to Restoration England and Elizabethan England now too. Such a great way to absorb history, in my opinion. ( )
  teejayhanton | Mar 22, 2024 |
I did not even now how much I wanted and needed such a brilliant history book. The idea of a past that is living and vibrant, and not just a collection of documents/evidence and “ignorant” people modern humans can feel superior to, really appeals to me.

I enjoyed the guidebook structure (“what to eat”, “where to stay”, “things to see in London”) and the sense of being PRESENT in a medieval town, in a yeoman’s house or a lord’s hall.

There was so much I did not know (naturally ;)) or did not think about as deeply before.
- They had vineyards in England in the early 1300’s!
- Lower life expectancy meant that this was a society of very young people. With fewer cooler, wiser heads around, it really is no wonder (how come I had not thought about this before?) that there is so much violence.
- I loved the Roger Bacon quote ☺
- Reading about the evolution of fashion was very entertaining.
- The ideas about female sexuality and marriage were… interesting, to say the least.
There is much more to say on that score, but I don’t want to make this list longer.

Other things I particularly liked:

The description of the Great Plague was full of horror and compassion, probably one of the most moving description I’ve ever read.

The author wrote beautifully about medieval literature, with so much love for books, authors and poetry. I think I need to stop picking up bits and pieces here and there and finally read the whole of “The Canterbury Tales”…

I want more of the same! Apparently, Ian Mortimer had also written The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England and The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain. Be still, my heart.
( )
  Alexandra_book_life | Dec 15, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (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 (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Mortimerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dyer, ChristopherForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonathan KeebleNarratorsecondary 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.
First words
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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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.

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