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The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century (Time Traveller's Guides #1)

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  11,978 Ratings  ·  957 Reviews
Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the 14th century. This text sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking the reader to the Middle Ages, and showing everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture.
Audiobook, first edition, 319 pages
Published October 2nd 2008 by The Bodley Head Ltd (first published January 1st 2008)
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Feb 19, 2013 LeeAnne rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 24, 2011 Orsolya rated it it was amazing
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
Cait • A Page with a View
Sep 14, 2016 Cait • A Page with a View rated it really liked it
It's nonfiction written like fiction, which made it super fascinating to read! This book covers all of the details of what life would be like in medieval England, except it walks you through each section like you're really there experiencing it. There were some really amazing facts and I actually learned a lot (like what types of squirrels were present at this time). If you're interested in this time period and don't want to read yet another dry nonfiction book, check this out!
Mar 31, 2013 Nikki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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

Description: Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the 14th century. This text sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking the reader to the Middle Ages, and showing everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture.

As Susanna mentions in her review, the clothing section was very interesting: knitting was not known in 14C.
Fully recommended.

3.5* The Time Traveller's Guide to Eliz
Jan 15, 2012 Tracey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2013 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audio-book
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
Jan 31, 2013 Karen Brooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
A very interesting way to write a history book. This author wrote this book like it was a travel guide. He tries to describe the sights, smells, and people of the era as if you could walk down the road and be in the middle of it. I really enjoyed reading it, and suggest it to anyone who enjoys reading history. I hope he writes more like it.
2016 is the year I have decided to learn more about history, well that's the plan anyway! So, starting with this one I think was a good choice. It reads almost like a novel. The idea that you are a visitor to medieval England, discovering what life was like there from your own observations draws the reader/listener into that world immediately.

I found it endlessly fascinating, discovering new things. The author imparts his knowledge on the subject with such a light touch that it is never dull, a
May 15, 2010 Jemidar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 :-).
Jan 26, 2013 Santhosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

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
Apr 07, 2010 Noah rated it liked it
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
Mar 21, 2016 Alex marked it as to-read
Shelves: middle-ages
What's that you say? Do whatever Kate Beaton says? OKAY!
Michelle Diener
Aug 20, 2012 Michelle Diener rated it really liked it
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
Dec 14, 2011 John Brown rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 10, 2010 MAP rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Deborah Pickstone
Excellent orientation to life in the 14th century. Mortimer writes from the bird's eye perspective of the reader as a visitor from the modern day.
Jul 07, 2014 Suzanne rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Greg Strandberg
Oct 05, 2016 Greg Strandberg rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Whereas most books on English history tell us of the big names and large wars, this book goes a different route and tells us of the everyday small stuff.

For instance, we see how people lived in the 1300s, what their houses were like, and what they did for a living.

We learn about the large fields that were unfenced and un-walled and how livestock often wandered over the crops.

Individual families had about an acre that they were responsible for tending, so when this happened it was quite “an emba
Jul 31, 2011 Mothwing rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, historic
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
Apr 01, 2017 Isabella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meine Meinung

Dieses Sachbuch habe ich ganz spontan beim Stöbern in der Bücherei aus dem Regal gezogen, weil mich die Aufmachung und der Klappentext sofort angesprochen haben. Ich finde es immer sehr interessant, mehr darüber zu erfahren, wie Menschen in vergangenen Zeiten gelebt haben, und in dieser Hinsicht ist „Im Mittelalter: Ein Handbuch für Zeitreisende“ ein echter Glücksgriff. Ian Mortimer hat bereits mehrere historische Romane veröffentlicht, von denen ich bisher leider noch keinen gelese
Elise Edmonds
Oct 27, 2016 Elise Edmonds rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked up this book on my recent holiday to Tintagel, in Cornwall. Given the King Arthur connection, there were a lot of history books available in most of the tourist shops, and this one caught my eye.

I’m not really one for reading much in the way of non-fiction. A lot of my (fairly poor) historical knowledge comes from historical fiction. However, this book is presented more as a travel guide than a text book, and I thought it sounded like a fun read.

I’m pleased to say that the book lives up
This is a short and simple guidebook to 14th century England. Mortimer approaches this century topically: the landscape, the people, the medieval character, what to wear, health and hygiene, law.... Not surprisingly, he's also very sympathetic to medieval people. We're keen on looking at them smugly, but Mortimer reflects that "We might eat differently, be taller,* and live longer, and we might look at jousting as being unspeakably dangerous and not at all a sport, but we know what grief is and ...more
An excellent concept; a description of the later medieval period presented from behind the eyeballs of the reader, in real time; almost as if Jon Pertwee (the best dressed of any of actors who, since 1963 have played “Dr Who”) had arrived in the England of the fourteenth century in his Tardis.

However, by just half-way through this book (Ch. 6, “Travelling”), over-satiated I regretted having not approached it a more leisurely one chapter at a time with a decent break in-between chapters. There’s
Rebecca Radnor
As a history fan and an anthropologist I really enjoyed this book. Unlike most history books which focus on the rich and mighty, and their exploits, this book is about no one in particular... rather it's about how medieval people in England perceived beauty, fashions, functionality, etc. It is a literary attempt at a virtual reality experience of being dropped off back in time, and what you would see and experience, and trying to explain the cultural norms of these people from an anthropological ...more
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
Mar 26, 2009 Darkpool (protesting GR censorship) rated it it was amazing
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
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
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AKA James Forrester.

Dr Ian Mortimer is a historian and novelist, best known for his Time Traveller's Guides series. He has BA, MA, PhD and DLitt degrees from the University of Exeter and UCL. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and was awarded the Alexander Prize by the Royal Historical Society in 2004. Home for him and his family is the small
More about Ian Mortimer...

Other Books in the Series

Time Traveller's Guides (3 books)
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain: Life in the Age of Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton and The Great Fire of London
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England

Share This Book

“‎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.” 16 likes
“Justice is a relative concept in all ages. The fourteenth century is no exception.” 14 likes
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