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The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  6,518 ratings  ·  707 reviews
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there...

Imagine you could travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see, and hear, and smell? Where would you stay? What are you going to eat? And how are you going to test to see if you are going down with the plague?

In The Time Traveller's Guide... Ian Mortimer's radical new approach turns our entire u
Paperback, 344 pages
Published 2009 by Vintage Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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A very fun, entertaining book!
Here are a few things I learned:

The Landscape:

There are almost no conifer or evergreen trees in the middle ages so the winter skyline is particularly bleak.

There are no grey squirrels, only red ones. The grey variety has yet to reach Britain.

Cattle and sheep are smaller than their modern counterparts: much smaller.

There are no wolves. The last English wolf was killed in North Lancashire in the 14th century.

The People:

Half of the entire population are under the
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
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
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
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
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
Huh - I either never posted this review, or it vanished. Yay for beginning-of-the-year cleanup.
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
Loved this and have bored everyone around me with 'Did you know.....'.
Ian Mortimer brings the period alive with wonderful descriptions of what you would have seen, heard, sang, said, eaten, smelt etc in Medieval England.
Strange to think of a place with no potatoes, carrots or tomatoes. All the squirrels would be red. Hardly any pine trees or any sort of evergreen. No horse chestnut trees. No public spaces in towns apart from the market place.
And the loudest noise most people would ever hear woul

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 :-).
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
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
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
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
Dana Stabenow
A wealth of detail in this you-are-there look at life in medieval England. Just dipping in at random:

When you draw closer to the city walls you will see the great gatehouse...And then you notice the smell. Four hundred yards from the city gate, the muddy road you are folowing crosses a brook. As you look along the banks you see piles of refuse, broken crockery, animal bones, entrails, human feces, and rotting meat strewn in and around the bushes. In some places the muddy banks slide into thick q

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there...

As the arresting title implies, the book is laid out in the form of a travel guide to medieval England, with chapters such as: The Landscape, The People, The Medieval Character, Basic Essentials, What to Wear, Travelling, Where to Stay, What to Eat and Drink, Health and Hygiene, The Law, and What to Do.

With an interesting narrative device such as this, we learn of everyday life "back then" by viewing fourteenth century people a
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
Wow, this was not only an informative book to read, but a fun one as well! For anyone who loves historical fiction as much as I do, discovering new insights into the past is just as entertaining as a good story. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England has much to offer.

We learn the life expectancy is much shorter in the 14th century. Throw in the Plague, and you have half of the population under 21 years of age.

When you consider that societies with youthful populations are more violent, te
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!
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
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
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
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!
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.
Katherine Rowland
The title of this book was enough to lure me in, and once I picked up the book, I was delighted to remain. Mortimer's well-researched book is involving and thought-provoking. He does an excellent job of throwing a lot of facts out without confusing the reader.

I appreciated the approach that Mortimer took, which was that of emphasizing the humanity of history: there are people in those pages of facts, and Mortimer brings them to to forefront. He also does an excellent job of remaining behind the
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: "the
Alan Keister
I loved this book. It highlights the differences between then and now. If you like "The Year 1000", this is in the same vein but better.
My interest in history is in the everyday. Random facts and dates and politics may tell me what shaped the world we have today, but I want to know what people were doing while all that went on. This book, then, was right up my alley. And it was in my 2014 TBR Challenge because otherwise, I was never going to get around to reading it.

The book is, as the title says, a guidebook for anyone wanting to visit England in the 1300's. It discusses customs, fashions, crime, justice, economic classes, cond
I picked up this book because I thought it might include useful details for some writing that I am doing which is set in the late 15th century. My copy does not have the subtitle, "A Handbook for Visitors to the FOURTEENTH Century" on the front, as is shown. After some initial disappointment that the information was not quite the right time period, I consoled myself and was soon taken in.

This ended up being some of the easiest nonfiction reading that I have done. The book is aptly named, for it
Austin Amonette
Feb 12, 2010 Austin Amonette rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 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 Edward III: The Perfect King

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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.” 12 likes
“Justice is a relative concept in all ages. The fourteenth century is no exception.” 10 likes
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