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The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

(Time Traveller's Guides #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  15,381 ratings  ·  1,193 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 unde
Paperback, 344 pages
Published 2009 by Vintage Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Nicole Not really throughout the book but there are two sections of 8 pages of coloured high-quality pictures.

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4.01  · 
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 ·  15,381 ratings  ·  1,193 reviews

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Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
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
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." -- L. P. Hartley

Take this book along on your next trip to Medieval England to help ensure your travel experience is a smooth one. Some things you might need to know for your journey:

-- If you are from Australia, you might be impressed that even in the 1300s people have some vague concept of existence of the continent. However, you should keep in mind it's considered much too hot for man to inhabit, and instead is the home of crea
Dannii Elle
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have long found this period of history the most fascinating to read about. What compels my interest is not the fierce battles or matters of court, but more the running of the day-to-day life of the common people, during this time.

For that reason, it was like this book was penned with my particular desires in mind. Unlike many other non-fiction books, this was not set out in the typical chronological format. Instead, this was split into sections that focused on one particular area of interest -
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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

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 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-n
This book was super interesting and informative if you’re looking to understand what life was like back in 14th century England. Plenty of statistics, but also the author worked hard to tell about life in an interesting narrative way that kept things from getting too dry. I found all the little tidbits about trade and buildings and the daily life of an Englishman very informative as well as statistics about percentages of the population that was literate, what sort of life you could expect if yo ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, history
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 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
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exciting and compelling way to engage with the past

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century is a wonderful concept. History told in the form of a living guide - up close and personal. It's brilliant. Ian Mortimer shows us the food, the customs, the language, the clothes, the games, the laws, the risks, the illnesses, medicine, the poor, the aristocrats, the merchants, the soldiers, writers, poets, religion, the criminals, and so on. He
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
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
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Travelling Broadens the Mind as Well as the Soles

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England is the first of a series of Time Traveller’s Guides written by Ian Mortimer covering, up to now, the Middle Ages, the times of the Tudors as well as Restoration England. Reading the first part of these peculiar travelogues made me hope that Mortimer will continue his Traveller’s Guide series at least into Victorian England because even though I would certainly not have wanted to live back then, this i
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.
May 15, 2010 rated it really liked it

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 :-).
Alex Givant
Interesting guide on 14th century England - how they lived, eat, got sick, etc.
Jan 26, 2013 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
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
Apr 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly conceived and executed. Just what is needed to fill out a dry historical account of 14th Century England, but even more useful for evaluating how far historical fiction strayed from historical fact. Mortimer gives plenty of detail but it is well organized and presented in such a companionable manner that it always goes down smoothly.
Mar 21, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-ages
What's that you say? Do whatever Kate Beaton says? OKAY!
I loved, loved, loved this book! He did a great job keeping a non-judgemental perspective, which I didn’t expect but appreciated. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves history.
Michelle Diener
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg Strandberg
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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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

Other books in the series

Time Traveller's Guides (3 books)
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain: Life in the Age of Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton and The Great Fire of London
“‎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.” 27 likes
“Justice is a relative concept in all ages. The fourteenth century is no exception.” 18 likes
More quotes…