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

Ian Mortimer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2009

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 understanding of history upside down. History is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived, whether that's the life of a peasant or a lord. The result is perhaps the most astonishing history book you are ever likely to read; as revolutionary as it is informative, as entertaining as it is startling.

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The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century + The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England + Terry Jones' Medieval Lives
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 18th Impression edition (1 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845950992
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845950996
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Mortimer has BA, PhD and DLitt degrees in history from Exeter University and an MA in archive studies from University College London. From 1991 to 2003 he worked for several archival and research institutions, including Devon Record Office, the University of Reading, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts and the University of Exeter. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine. His PhD was published by the Royal Historical Society in 2009 as 'The Dying and the Doctors: the Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England'. He is also the author of two volumes of early modern manuscripts and numerous articles in the scholarly press on subjects ranging from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries.

He is best known as the author of 'The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England', which was a Sunday Times bestseller in 2009 and 2010. He is also the author of a series of four sequential medieval biographies, 'The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer' (covering the years 1306-1330), 'The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III' (covering 1327-1377), 'The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King' (covering 1377-1413) and '1415: Henry V's Year of Glory' (covering 1413-1415). A volume of scholarly essays, 'Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies' provides several of the in-depth pieces of research that support the more difficult and contentious aspects of these books, and includes his important essay on understanding historical evidence. He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor.

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Product Description


"Amazing" (Alison Weir)

"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" (Daily Telegraph)

"[Mortimer] 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 of this careful blend of scholarship and fancy is a jaunty journey through the 14th Century, one that wriggles with the stuff of everyday life" (Guardian)

"This is not only an unusual book, but a thoroughly engaging one" (Literary Review)

"After The Canterbury Tales this has to be the most entertaining book ever written about the middle ages " (Sue Arnold Guardian)


'It is Monty Python and the Holy Grail with footnotes, and, my goodness it is fun'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
400 of 405 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think that I can safely speak for many of us in the historical community (both writers and readers) when I say that we are - in the nicest way of course - rather nosy. That is, we want to know all about people from different times: what they looked like; what they did; how they did it. For instance, have you ever wondered whether people in the fourteenth century wore nightdresses or what the well off used to wipe their behinds with (I have!)? How about their pastimes, sense of humour or the difficulties of travelling?

Ian Mortimer's latest book: The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England - A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century certainly satisfies that craving for knowledge of the minutiae of daily life in the Middle Ages. The book is lovingly researched and well written with a light sprinkling of humour that makes it very easy to read. The style in itself is very original for a non-fiction historical book, using a `guidebook' approach that is a million miles away from the stuffiness of many `academic' books. Yet, happily, the book does not suffer from a lack of sincerity or historical integrity in any way.

The topics cover a broad range of subjects for the `traveller' from what the landscape will look like to what to wear, where to stay when travelling, and how to address different kinds of people that you will meet along the way. And then, of course, when they invite you to eat with them, you will know what food to expect. And then, of course, there is always the danger of falling ill. The Time Traveller's Guide is once again at hand to tell you not only what may be wrong with you (hopefully not the plague, or leprosy!) and what medicine is available to help cure it.

This book, then, is a wonderful read.
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123 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally engaging 2 Jan 2009
Having read 'The Perfect King' and become interested in the 14th Century (previously my passion was the Tudor Age)I decided to expand my knowledge of the period by picking out this book purely by chance. It is absolutely rivetting and I completed it in just 2 days. There are so many books on the period, most as dry as dust, but the world comes alive through Mortimer's pen. I do not feel it was 'dumbing down' in any way by writing this as a 'guide book' - quite the contrary. The world truly came alive from page one, and my attention was hooked. Mortimer reaches across the centuries into the hearts and minds of people not so very different from ourselves. We learn about their working lives and their leisure. We find out what they eat and what they wear. We can almost feel the horror of parents as they can only stand and watch their whole families being wiped out by plague. The greatest writers of the period are mentioned, not just Chaucer but other authors such as the Gawain poet, writing such poignant verses with emotions that feel just as relevant today. Not only is it a rivetting read, it is truly a handbook to be read in conjuction with other history books of the period. The past is not something long-dead and buried, but has a life all its own and is why we are who we are. A very easy, fascinating read.
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129 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb 2 Nov 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At school I hated history mainly because it was learning boring dates and events.
This book changes all of that; it tells me what I wanted to know in an easy to read and extremely enjoyable way.

What will I see in a 14th Century street, who will I see, what des it smell like, what will I eat, how do I address people I meet? All of this and more is covered in this excellent book. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of the period such as the city, the town, the village etc. Very clear and very informative; ideal for casual interest, school pupils, university history reading and so on.

I won't go into the details because that would simply spoil things for you so I suggest you get this book and be transported back some 700 years.

It simply brings history to life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is exactly what it says on the cover; read it, and you will be ejected in a heap from your time machine, and will land sprawling on the ground amid the noise and smells of the main road into medieval Exeter. From there you will be whisked, willy-nilly, from fashionable quarter to repulsive back-street hovel, and will meet some of the people with whom you will now have to associate. Much of what you discover will make you want to crawl back to the twenty-first century as fast as you can, but unfortunately you are stuck, and will just have to make the best of a bad job.
Luckily, you have Ian Mortimer's incredibly comprehensive guide to help you; you will find out how to behave, think, eat, shop dress, find work, and will be able to access countless other hints and tips necessary for survival, for death, punishment and criminal deception lurk at every turn, and he or she who ignores the advice given will find it very hard indeed to manage in this alien landscape. Everything is carefully explained in detail; illustrations are quite unnecessary.
This is no adult version of "Everyday Life In Medieval Times". It is a skilful and brilliantly executed distillation of heaven knows how many original manuscripts, extracts, books and pieces of research, all boiled down into a disturbingly real experience of fourteenth century England. You are there; it's as simple as that.
Anybody genuinely interested in the medieval period would do well to read this, and it will be a complete delight for those who are tired of reading turgid studies filled with maps and time-lines, or simplistic overviews written for sensation-seekers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Fascinating. I really felt, after reading it, that I'd just returned from a trip to the 14th century.
Published 11 days ago by James Stacey
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!
Really detailed account of medieval life - you get such a 'flavour' for the era. Fascinating and draws you in - you won't be disappointed!
Published 1 month ago by Victoria
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book
So many appreciative reviews have already been written but I was so impressed I wanted to say so. I got this book, at a reduced rate, on a whim, and soon became ashamed, as a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. R. Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning can be fun
I home educate my teenage daughter (age 14) and, when she chose to learn Medieval history in more detail, I picked this book as one of our learning aids. Read more
Published 2 months ago by LisaF
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Great fun and absorbing. Should be on all UK secondary school curriculum. Definitely would recommend and read again and again.
Published 2 months ago by ROBERT B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in every way
I have read and own, a large number of books based on or in the medieval period. So when I say that this is the most excellent of the lot, i do not say it lightly. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rev Tony Norton
3.0 out of 5 stars Check your facts, Ian
Huge howler right at the beginning regarding the Savoy Palace made me lose faith in everything the author wrote thereafter.
Published 3 months ago by L. Tuplin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great guide to medieval life
Very pleased with this book, interesting and contains lots of detail-great illustrations, very easy to read- I thoroughly recommend it
Published 3 months ago by Bev Standing
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I wanted
This takes you into the time - just like the title promises and was exactly what I wanted. The contents pages are a good guide to the range of information. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jane guz
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply excellent!
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
If you visited 14th century England, this book would be an invaluable help. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Trajan
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