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

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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  4,418 ratings  ·  559 reviews
The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook. Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? Should you go to a castle or a monastic guest house? And what are you going to eat? What sort of food are you going to be offered by a peasant or...more
Hardcover, first edition, 319 pages
Published October 2nd 2008 by The Bodley Head Ltd
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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerBeowulf by UnknownA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Middle Ages Books
42nd out of 719 books — 874 voters
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian MortimerCathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel by Frances GiesA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Year 1000 by Robert LaceyLife in a Medieval City by Frances Gies
Nonfiction: Daily Life in The Middle Ages
1st out of 150 books — 11 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Orsolya
Most of us who read history or historical fiction set in Medieval (or even Tudor) England, can agree on one thing: we can’t understand the ways of life “back then” properly because we tend to apply modern morals and standards to history. However, with the “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England”, readers can finally understand Medieval times. I guarantee you will never look at a history book the same again…

Divided into main sections such as the landscape, people, medieval character, what...more
Tracey, librarian on strike
Obviously, A Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England was a title calculated to gain my attention. The premise: a different take on presenting an overview of a period of time, using the format of a travel guide – something of a Fodor's England 1320 that might be found in the TARDIS. Exploring the experience of all the senses, this should be a gem of a resource to the writer of historical fiction or fantasy.

From the introduction:
We might eat differently, be taller, and live longer, and we mig
...more
Brad
What a fantastic way to consume an overview of an historical period. Ian Mortimer's decision to create a guide for tourism shifts the focus of history from the "Great People of History" to the "People You'll Meet while Walking by Shitbrook," and that turns out to be far more fascinating -- at least to me.

Want to know how to avoid prosecution for murder in case you slip up during your travels? Mortimer lets you know. Want to know what sports you can expect to enjoy? They're all here. Want to kno...more
Tracey, librarian on strike
Huh - I either never posted this review, or it vanished. Yay for beginning-of-the-year cleanup.
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A Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England was a title calculated to gain my attention. The premise: a different take on presenting an overview of a period of time, using the format of a travel guide – something of a Fodor's England 1320 that might be found in the TARDIS. Exploring the experience of all the senses, this should be a gem of a resource to the writer of historical fiction o...more
Jemidar

Really 4.5 stars.

Because this book is such a tantalizing glimpse into the real lives of people in 14th century England it has inspired me to do something that my university lecturers couldn't, and that is to actually read The Canterbury Tales. It's now officially my special project for next year. Thank you Dr Mortimer :-).
Karen Brooks
Historian Ian Mortimer does something really interesting with this book: he sets out to recreate the period (the Fourteenth Century) as if he were writing a travel book for tourists as opposed to researching and explaining a forgotten time. In other words, he places the reader in the moment, advising you where to go, what to see, how to behave, speak, dress and what to expect should you happen to have the good fortune to be transported back to not-so-merry old England in the 1300s.
After my seco...more
Michelle Diener
This historical reference work is really tailor-made for writers. Ian Mortimer couldn’t be a more qualified source of information, as a member of the Royal Historical Society, and the recipient of their prestigeous Alexander Prize in 2004.

What I love most about this book is the way it’s written, as if you really were travelling back in time to the medieval period, with chapter headings like What to Wear, What to Eat and Drink, and most delightfully, What to Do.

Under the chapter heading of Landsc...more
John Brown
I love learning new things about places and peoples, even if it’s a place I’ve “been” to before, which is why Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England intrigued me. The first page convinced me to buy to book. And I’m so happy I did.

I’ve read my fair share of interesting and well-written texts on this subject, including, among others, Life in a Medieval City and Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies, Standards of Living in the later Middle Ages by Christopher D...more
Nikki
As a history book, this is an interesting format and it's reasonably engaging, though by the end I was starting to get worn down by the sheer level of detail. But what bothered me was that apparently, if you want to time travel, you'd better be male: there's some lip service paid to actually discussing women's role in society, with some references to the kind of work women did (mostly: make ale, I gather), and quite a lot of reference to the kind of clothes women wore, and how likely women were...more
MAP
This is a really fun and great idea. Basically the point is that since you're traveling back to the medieval ages, you need to know all the things that you won't get in a normal history book, like what underwear you wear or how you get from London to Canterbury in an age that doesn't have trustworthy maps or roads with signs. Although a couple of chapters dragged, a surprising amount of the ones I thought would be boring (Law, for example) ended up being really interesting. I would love if the p...more
Noah
I was pretty sure that my sci-fi reading streak would stand the test of time as the "nerdiest activity" of my existence. Then, however, I picked up and read a copy of this book. I was in the airport in London and had a few hours to kill, and voila - I'm taking in a fully articulated picture of life in medieval England.

Flashback - me as a kid, with my brother and father, at a renaissance festival. I'm not going to lie, it was fun. Mortimer takes a much more serious and adult stab at bringing life...more
Rio (Lynne)
What an interesting read. Even for those of us who know the basic medieval customs, this book will definitely teach you something new. Trust me, some parts will make you laugh and some squirm. Mortimer starts with you being transported to England and as you work your way into London you will learn about the landscape, people, customs and basic essentials. What you would wear (according to your rank of course). How to travel and where you'd stay. Will it be on a straw mattress at an inn or in the...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Very good; organized like a modern travel guide to a foreign country. Fascinating chapter on clothing.
Christine Blachford
After a mammoth Harry Potter marathon, I wanted something completely different to read. Non-fiction, check. Historical, check. Time-travelling? Sold! It started off well, and I thought the idea of approaching history from the perspective of living it, rather than blandly discussing what it might have been like, was a great one.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite sustain itself across the entire book. There were moments where it felt great - the author guides you through the streets of the city, and y...more
Spaghettitoes
This book is fantastic. I'd been looking for something that gave me the details of what it was like living in the medieval era; not a historical text on battles and royal alliances that tells you nothing about what it would mean to be a person around at the time *cough-book-research-cough* but something informative. That's this book.

I actually feel bad only giving this four stars because while it really was amazing at times I can't equal it to a fiction that I'd give an 'Amazing' (just FYI - Gaw...more
Mothwing
This is not so much any "time traveller"'s guide to England, but a man's guide to medieval England. This bias permeates the entire book and rather spoilt the reading experience for me.
This books is written as a guide to provide virtual time travellers with an account of what they would encounter if they travelled back into the fourteenth century.
I loved it in spite of the bias, as the style and the accounts of everyday life are so incredibly vivid and well-written. The only thing I had qualms...more
First Second Books
I am now sufficiently fascinated by Medieval England that if you’ve seen me in the past week, I’ve talked about it to you.

That's the sign of an excellent nonfiction book!
Helen
Original, insightful and very, very interesting, this is a superb book for anyone with even only a vague curiosity about history. Covering a broad range of topics including the hierarchy of medieval society, typical occupations, health and medicine, the place of women and children in society and what people did for fun, this is an excellently researched book (as evidenced by copious foot-notes) that won't alienate the non-academic reader.
I'll definitely be looking out for more by Mortimer.
Amelia, the pragmatic idealist
Takin' a weekend trip to the 14th century!
This is the 3rd Ian Mortimer book I've read... and I have to say, I think he's my favorite historian! I love his writing style - informative, but you don't feel like you're reading some highfalutin dissertation :P

This is my fun-read for the weekend! History lovers, you must pick up this book!
Austin Amonette
Feb 12, 2010 Austin Amonette rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Austin by: History Book Club
Shelves: history
The main reasons to read this book are (1) the engaging conceit of writing history as travel literature, (2) the appropriateness of the amount of scholarship underwriting the book, and (3) the charming literary sensibilities of the author.

The idea of writing medieval history as a travel guide derives from the author’s sophisticated theory of history, which he claims to be “no longer just an extended academic exercise—it can be anything you want it to be” (290). While “anything” may be hyperboli...more
Sarah Fisher
In a lot of ways, this books should be 5 stars but I'll get back to that.

In undergrad, I studied art history, history, and literature in the medieval period. After reading the foreword to this book, I felt like I found my intellectual match as Mortimer views medieval history as I do. However, he has time and money to actually do the research and produce this book about all the average everyday people and how they live. Learning dates and laws don't mean much unless one understands how they affec...more
SilverRaindrops
For a lot of people, works of nonfiction might be interesting if they weren't so boring and unrelatable. If you are one of these people, and you happen to be interested in Medieval England, you needn't worry. You've just come across the perfect book to teach you about historical details in an interesting manner. (And without contrived romances or constant warfare, which has got to be a huge plus.)

Ian Mortimer takes you on a trip to Medieval England and offers himself as a travel guide. He keeps...more
Bob Jones
This was an excellent way to learn about life in the 14th century. It covered topics like food and medicine and law as if one was "visiting" the time period, like a foreign country. While interesting and informative, I feel like this method has some pros and cons to it.

In its favor, its completely novel. It approaches this information in a way that nothing else I've read ever has, which automatically makes parts of it easier to understand and absorb. It allows me to put myself in the shoes of......more
M L Huitt
Gentle reader, this is not your average history book!

I have always been fascinated by medieval history; however - as with most history, I find - I have almost always preferred to learn about it indirectly through historical fiction, allowing the author to paint a picture of a time and place for me with his or her words, rather than being spoon-fed facts from a textbook. The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England bridges the divide between novel and nonfiction artfully, weaving fact and fancy...more
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
May 31, 2009 Darkpool (protesting GR censorship) rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in history.
"If medieval England is treated as dead and buried, what one can say about it is strictly limited by the questions arising from the evidence. However, if treated as a living place, the only limits are the experience of the author and his perception of the requirements, interests and curiosity of his readers. " p290

A very readable book; the premise that this is a travel rather than a history book works extremely well. The aim - as implied by the quote above - is to make the past a living place, n...more
Nicola
In an ostensible twist on the usual history book, Ian Mortimer presents Medieval England as if it were a tourist destination: he instructs on where to stay, what to do and what to expect from the local people. It’s a neat idea and a good hook for people who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up a weighty tome about history.

Time Traveller’s Guide is filled with interesting details about Medieval England, but Mortimer does have a tendency to reel off a minutia of facts that make the book begin to drag. Sinc...more
Meagan
I really loved this book. I've been fascinated with medieval England for as long as I can remember so when I got this book for Christmas I was excited! I had only read about 100 pages into it when I started school and didn't get around to it until four months later so picking it up again was a bit confusing since it does refer back to the previous chapters a lot. But that is on me and not the author. I liked how this took the ideal of navigating your way through Medieval England in a new way wit...more
Lou Robinson
One thing this book has certainly confirmed for me, I do not want to go back in time to the 1300s. Violent, dirty, disease-riddled...with the only pleasures seemingly to be home grown food, cider and a bit of singing. No, Medieval England is not for me.
Set out like a typical travel book, there are sections on where to stay, what to eat, what to do... It's a definite step in the right direction as history books go. You might have noticed, if you've looked at the books I normally pick up, I'm real...more
Owen
Not as exciting as anticipated. The is a significant focus on creating dramatic and memorable imagery at the expense of specific detail, so much of the descriptions feel half-formed and superficial.

Anyone reading this book without a fair knowledge of the history of the era would be lost at several parts as well. Frequent references to political figures and events are given, but in brief terms as to how they would impact the day to day life of the fictional traveler.

Overall, there is a strong s...more
Elvet
Thanks to Caroline for bringing this book to my attention. I'm not much of a history buff, but I love fantasy - most of which is in medieval like settings. This look at the ins and outs of daily life in the 1300's is fascinating.
The book had quite a few revelations for me (origins of o'clock and the British pound to name a few). Even though it was written like a guide book, it was more about how people live their everyday lives. The author was able to give it perspective, so that you could under...more
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436455
AKA James Forrester.

Dr Ian Mortimer was born in Petts Wood (Kent) in 1967. He won a scholarship to Eastbourne College (Sussex) and later read for degrees in history and archive studies at the universities of Exeter and London (UCL). From 1991 to 2003 he worked for a succession of archive and historical research organisations, including Devon Record Office, the Royal Commission on Historical Manusc...more
More about Ian Mortimer...
The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330 Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-made King 1415: Henry V's Year Of Glory

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“‎W. H. Auden once suggested that to understand your own country you need to have lived in at least two others. One can say something similar for periods of time: to understand your own century you need to have come to terms with at least two others. The key to learning something about the past might be a ruin or an archive but the means whereby we may understand it is--and always will be--ourselves.” 8 likes
“Justice is a relative concept in all ages. The fourteenth century is no exception.” 7 likes
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