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The Time Traveler's Guide To Medieval England:
 A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

by Ian Mortimer
A Must Read for medieval enthusiasts of all fashions and at all levels!
In THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, Ian Mortimer takes readers on a voyage to fourteenth-century England.  Exploring the time period as if it were a foreign country rather than dry facts in a dusty textbook, Ian Mortimer imagines the past as virtual history, a history that is happening.  Ian Mortimer extends the approach of architectural historians who recreate images of buildings as they were during the period to cover more topics, especially those topics that a visitor would need to know, much like tourist guides for visiting foreign cultures.  Ian Mortimer's approach looks not only at the evidence but also the humanity of people living during the time.  Ian Mortimer combines "what if" scenarios in which outcomes are not necessarily guaranteed with an awareness of our perspectives and life today in order to pinpoint those areas of medieval life that clearly differ from our own routines, values, and expectations.   As visitors to a fourteenth century present before us, we ask different questions than would someone viewing the period from a safe, comfortable distance.  Consequently, the questions we ask and the answers we discover have a vitality sometimes lacking in traditional history.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND examines topics a time traveler from our century would want and need to know for a successful visit to fourteenth century England.  Chapters include the following topics: the landscape, the people (with a look at the roles of fighters, workers, the religious and more), the medieval character, basic essentials, what to wear, traveling, where to stay, what to eat and drink, health and hygiene, the law, and what to do.  Ian Mortimer gives a perspective to the landscape that allows a reader to visualize the world before them.  The chapter on medieval character delves into such sub-topics as violence and cruelty, the sense of humor and a warrior's love of flowers, education and more.  Basic essentials covers topics any time traveler (or scholar) would need to know such as languages, dates, measuring time, units of measurement, manners and politeness, shopping, money, and more.  Each chapter takes a reader deeper and deeper into the culture of the time, building upon the other so that by the end of the book, a reader feels one has visited the time and culture.  Each chapter presents a new look at topics, even for those well-versed in the literature or history of the period. Chapters on health and hygiene and the law bring a particularly powerful vision and insight into the period. No matter how much one has studied the plague, Ian Mortimer's presentation of it and other diseases makes a reader feel the devastation from the perspective of people living through the event much more than facts and figures.   Ian Mortimer focuses on the cultural differences between our time and that of fourteenth century England.  Mortimer's examination of medieval England disperses modern stereotypes of "the Dark Ages" as a time of ignorance and lack of civilization.  Particularly compelling are his discussions of cleanliness within the social and religious context as well as his discussion of knowledge.  Science and medicine differ from today's perspective not through ignorance or a lack of study but because the two incorporate other areas of study that modern times discounts.  Sixteen pages of rich illustrations, mostly from medieval manuscrips accompany the text, adding to the visual image built up by the author's words.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND is an excellent choice for neophytes and medieval scholars alike.  For readers wanting to explore Medieval England, the travel guide format brings the period alive in memorable, vivid imagery with relevant historical details.  Readers who love historical fiction who tend to avoid history due to its dryness will particularly appreciate the humanity and sense of vibrancy Ian Mortimer brings to history.  THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND is highly recommended to medieval enthusiasts and lovers of medieval literature.  THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND would make an important resource for both undergraduate and graduate medieval literary students, helping readers to visualize the time period and its literature in new and exciting ways.  This reader would have most appreciated this book as a background resource during my graduate medieval studies, above all for visualizing the background behind the literature.  THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND is a fine example of the use of imagination to ask relevant questions of history for literature lovers.  Even though those familiar with the period may already know the material, at least in part, Ian Mortimer brings historical facts and concepts together in an exciting combination to provide a background for the reading of medieval literature.   Even such details as the size and lay-outs of medieval towns become more memorable through his presentation.  For those well-versed in the period, Ian Mortimer brings a wonderful sense of humor to medieval history.  Last but not least, THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND is highly recommended to historical fiction, romance and mystery authors writing in this period.  Not only will his research help provide more accuracy to historical fiction, but his imagination asks the kinds of questions fictional authors should ask.   Ian Mortimer's THE TIME TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND is a must read for medieval enthusiasts of all fashions and at all levels!

Publisher: Touchstone (December 29, 2009)
Author website

Book description

The past is a foreign country.
This is your guidebook.

A time machine has just transported you back to the fourteenth century. What do you see? How do you dress? How do you earn a living and how much are you paid? What sort of food will you be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? And more important, where will you stay?

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England is not your typical look at a historical period. This radical new approach shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. All facets of everyday life in this fascinating period are revealed, from the horrors of the plague and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and medieval haute couture.

Through the use of daily chronicles, letters, household accounts, and poems of the day, Morti-mer transports you back in time, providing answers to questions typically ignored by traditional historians. You will learn how to greet people on the street, what to use as toilet paper, why a physician might want to taste your blood, and how to know whether you are coming down with leprosy.

From the first step on the road to the medieval city of Exeter, through meals of roast beaver and puffin, Mortimer re-creates this strange and complex period of history. Here, the lives of serf, merchant, and aristocrat are illuminated with re-markable detail in this engaging literary journey. The result is the most astonishing social history book you're ever likely to read: revolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance, and fear.

Copyright Merrimon Crawford  2007-2010 All Rights Reserved