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

Ian Mortimer

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

The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook. Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? Should you go to a castle or a monastic guest house? And what are you going to eat? What sort of food are you going to be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? This radical new approach turns our entire understanding of history upside down. It shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. It sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking you, the reader, to the middle ages, and showing you everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture.Being a guidebook, many questions are answered which do not normally occur in traditional history books. How do you greet people in the street? What should you use for toilet paper? How fast - and how safely - can you travel? Why might a physician want to taste your blood? And how do you test to see if you are going down with the plague? 3.3 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, Humour
Format Hardback
Pages 352
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication October 2008
ISBN 978-0224079945
Publisher Bodley Head
 

The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook. Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? Should you go to a castle or a monastic guest house? And what are you going to eat? What sort of food are you going to be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? This radical new approach turns our entire understanding of history upside down. It shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. It sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking you, the reader, to the middle ages, and showing you everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture.Being a guidebook, many questions are answered which do not normally occur in traditional history books. How do you greet people in the street? What should you use for toilet paper? How fast - and how safely - can you travel? Why might a physician want to taste your blood? And how do you test to see if you are going down with the plague?

Reviews

The Guardian

Kathryn Hughes

Mortimer also tries to bring us living history by using the second person and the present tense throughout... What makes these slightly awkward stylistic choices bearable is that Mortimer knows what he is doing. He has previously written three very well received biographies of medieval kings which are both readable and erudite... 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.

25/10/2008

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The Financial Times

Ángel Gurría-Quintana

Mortimer presents events as if they were unfolding: “It does not make the facts themselves less true to put them in the present rather than the past.” Yet putting those facts in the present tense makes for awkward storytelling. The illusion of first-hand historical experience is shattered the moment we are thrown 50 years backwards or forwards in order to provide context. Mortimer’s refusal to commit to a temporal point of view undermines the immediacy he attempts to convey.

07/11/2008

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The Daily Telegraph

Tom Holland

By far the best sections are those in which Mortimer stays truest to his conceit, and writes as though his ideal readers really are time-travellers, peeping out through the doors of their Tardis at a world which unsettlingly mixes the familiar and the bizarre... Regrettably, however, the vividness of those chapters in which we are taken along muddy roads to see the sights and breathe in the smells of the 14th century is only fitfully maintained. Playing at being a travel guide works less well when the inns and rickety bridges are left behind and Mortimer sets himself to describing fashion, the law or Piers Plowman.

11/10/2008

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The Independent

Tom Holland

Chivalry and carnage: After decades of neglect, medieval themes are more popular than ever

24/10/2008

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