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Showing 1-10 of 54 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
I am always suspicious of history books with a gimmick, quite often the gimmick dominates and the history lesson gets lost. So it was with caution I picked up this book. I need not have worried, the history is centre stage and the gimmick merely serves as an interesting entrance into the Medieval world.

The book is essentially a travel guide. If we were able to travel back and wander around Medieval England, what would we see? What is the political and social structure, the sights and sounds of the era? Where would you sleep, what would you eat? What is there to do and see? It's a format that really allows the writer to do a decent job of bringing the era to life on the page, and gives us easy access into the world of our ancestors.

By describing a society rather than a life or series of events, which is what most history books focus on, there is a wide breadth of information hereand lots that is not usually found in even the most comprehensive of histories. The era is brought to life and in the mind's eye we ca really see, hear and smell the world being described.

As well as being a decent history lesson, it is eminently readable and a thoroughly entertaining book. Highly recommended.
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on 15 November 2010
This book is a great window on the past as corny as that sounds. Ian Mortimer's casual approach works really well you get a real feel for the period in the way he describes the day to day life experiences of the medieval person. Some parts of the book are a bit presumptuous but you can forgive any presumption by the author on the basis of the first person style in which the book is written. I found some of the best bits of the book were attention to detail in the context of an everyday situation. Overall the book added a human aspect to the medieval period which I had sometimes neglected to think about when reading a political text on the period. Even if you don't have an interest in medieval history you would do well to read this book as a way of experiencing the past and the culture shocks and similarities we share with our ancestors.
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on 30 April 2009
Dr Mortimer hit upon something of a winning formula when he decided to present an account of 14th century in the form of a Travel Guide. It allows for true to life, down to earth and realistic depictions of people places and things which seem to be `in the now'. The `turn this way and you will see' style narration could get a little annoying after a while, but generally the book provides a vivid, fascinating and enjoyable depiction of the period through the eyes of the people of the time.

For anyone looking for a lively introduction to the period this is certainly it. The only things lacking in my view was a glossary which would be helpful for people reading the book who had little or no prior knowledge of the period. I cannot begin to describe how useful this book is if you are interested in social history. It gives vivid and realistic glimpses into the lives of different people from every area of society. From knights and nobles, to humble villains and labourers.
Currency, law, travel, entertianment, social conventions, fashion even sanitatary conditions.It is all here, everything a traveller needs to know, and perhaps a little they don't.

The use of technical or period phrases which many people may be unfamiliar with and no explanation of their definition or what they referred to can make it seem as though the author might simply have forgotten that his audience are not all historians, and so might not know what he is taking about. Some maps might also have been in order.

One of the major issues I had with this book was the way that Mortimer sometimes allowed his own opinions and beliefs to colour the narrative, and perhaps to an extent that they might influence those of the readers.
Of course, it is scarcely possible for any historian or writer to be totally objective a removed all the time, but is an account of 14th century entertainment or changing tastes in fashion punctuated by Mortimer's apparent hostility towards what the author perceives as religious and moral `prudishness' really necessary?

At times, Mortimer comes across as downright arrogant and condescending when he asserts that only old, fat and/or or religious people would express disapproval of certain things.
In the historical context the final designation seems almost meaningless as almost everyone was `religious' to varying degrees at this time- and the logical implication appears to be that either that religious people were in the minority- which likely was not the case, or that the majority of the population of England would not have approved to tight fitting or revealing fashions, and flirtatious dances which Mortimer himself claims was not the case either.

This pervasive prejudice does little to enhance the reader's understanding of the era, and adds little to the book. It is possible to get past this and to enjoy and learn something from the book nonetheless but this may be something of an issue.
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on 7 February 2009
I can't add much in praise to the previous reviews - I romped through this and just loved the direct and friendly style of the writing. If only children were presented with history in this form more regularly!
My only quibbles were that I would have liked some information on (admittedly probably the ONLY subject the author has missed out!) the visual arts and that I was puzzled by his cursory assumption that the Medieval church would have objected to the ubiquitous reliance on astrology. This is, in fact, a relatively modern separation, as evidenced by the numerous astrological symbols to be found on Medieval churches.
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on 12 March 2009
This is a marvellous book, full of FACTS, but readable from cover to cover - although one does dip. Apart from the chapter on Law (which astonishes in its complexity) all was comprehensible and enlightening, and one was left with a greater understanding of how people of all classes in the fourteenth century spent their days. The reference to time travel in the title, while trying to make it appeal to the young (presumably), probably deterred the older more appreciative reader. I hope the people to whom I gave this book for Christmas enjoyed it as much as I did.
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on 13 April 2010
Really enjoyed reading this book, was simple and easy to follow and introduced me to ideas and thinking that other history books have not, puting myself in the position of a traveller through this time helped me to understand the views and customs, and by the end of the book the 14th century didnt seem such a strange place after all.
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on 24 October 2013
I discovered this book after watching the authors BBC series "The time travellers guide to Medieval England". (& have also bought that) It is well written & very entertaining, I like that the authour assumes that you have indeed time travelled to medieval times & he gives you some real nuggets of information, not found in your usual history book. One particular phrase, "as you walk along whistling your outlandish music" had me chuckling & he of course is right, if we did indeed travel back to Medieval England, I suspect I'd be burned as a witch for whistling a Metallica tune! I can highly recommend this book to anyone.
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on 12 March 2011
This is an enjoyable, informative, fascinating and valuable book which I recommend highly.

However, it has one major flaw, which is that it is written throughout from a thoroughly secular (specifically non-Christian) perspective - frequently leaving-out the religious dimension and often adopting an attitude of skeptical mockery.

This means that its portrayal of an age of faith is in fact radically-incomplete and deeply distorted; since the 'good things' of Medieval life are seen merely in terms of worldly pleasures (which were relatively few and far-between); whereas for Medieval England the spiritual realm was, even when not dominant, certainly extraordinarily powerful and pervasive.
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on 11 May 2010
This book is so informative, you get a complete picture of what life was like in medieval England. The descriptions of the sights and smells was particularly vivid!

I can't help but wonder how on earth the author had the patience to painstakingly find out all the information for the book. The research must have been mind-boggling.

Great read - recommended.
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on 2 November 2012
This is a great book on the whole, which really does give a vivid impression of life in the 14th Century. The blurb on the cover suggests some sort of virtual reality experience, but you won't get that without investing a decent amount of imaginative energy in it. Even so, the concept of a 'guide book' does work well enough.

The chapters on Landscape, People and What to Eat and What do Do are excellent. I have often wondered what people ate before potatoes, and now I know! I must confess to getting a little bogged down in a couple of sections, especially in 'What to Wear', but cannot argue that it'd be a crucial section if I really were intending to travel back to the the period!

The chapter on the Law was really eye opening and explains perfectly how order was kept in a land without a police force, as well as highlighting how it could break down quite easily.

A solid platform from which to base further study of the medieval period from, without it feeling so much like a distant or foreign country. Recommended.
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