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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

VIRTUAL REALITY

Ian Mortimer described his book as a virtual reality tour of fourteenth century England. He indicated his objective was to assist in an understanding of what we have been and inherited as being vital to our understanding of what we are today and what we may be in the f...
Ian Mortimer described his book as a virtual reality tour of fourteenth century England. He indicated his objective was to assist in an understanding of what we have been and inherited as being vital to our understanding of what we are today and what we may be in the future. I'm not sure if this objective was met. It appears to me that human nature hasn't changed very much but only our circumstances. This tour provided details of those circumstances usually ignored by historians that are more narrowly focused. These details included how people earned a living, how much money they made, how they spent their money, what they ate, what their houses were like, the nature of medical care, and some aspects of faith.

I was surprised that in a time period dominated by one Christian church that speech tended to be straight forward, blunt and crude by current standards. Nobody would have been offended by the town water source being named "S**t Brook" or a narrow alley being called "P*ss Alley". I was also surprised that food was comparatively more expensive in the fourteenth century than it is today. If crops failed, people starved. Medical care appeared to often be more dangerous than the ailment. Seriously ill people simply died. Few appeared to question that martyrs and saints could leave innumerable bones and skulls for display and reverence. The past is often visualized as pristine. However, the practice in towns of dumping animal carcasses and human and animal offal and garbage in the streets and water sources and the constant presence of smoke inside and outside dwellings indicated reality was far from pristine. I found this book to be fascinating and often surprising.

posted by LN_Adcox on May 22, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

A Bit of a Disappointment

This was not nearly as much fun as I had hoped it would be. It holds no glaring inaccuracies, but neither does it have much wit or wisdom. Best for those who don't already know a fair amount about England in the Middle Ages.

posted by TeechTX on May 22, 2012

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  • Posted May 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    VIRTUAL REALITY

    Ian Mortimer described his book as a virtual reality tour of fourteenth century England. He indicated his objective was to assist in an understanding of what we have been and inherited as being vital to our understanding of what we are today and what we may be in the future. I'm not sure if this objective was met. It appears to me that human nature hasn't changed very much but only our circumstances. This tour provided details of those circumstances usually ignored by historians that are more narrowly focused. These details included how people earned a living, how much money they made, how they spent their money, what they ate, what their houses were like, the nature of medical care, and some aspects of faith.

    I was surprised that in a time period dominated by one Christian church that speech tended to be straight forward, blunt and crude by current standards. Nobody would have been offended by the town water source being named "S**t Brook" or a narrow alley being called "P*ss Alley". I was also surprised that food was comparatively more expensive in the fourteenth century than it is today. If crops failed, people starved. Medical care appeared to often be more dangerous than the ailment. Seriously ill people simply died. Few appeared to question that martyrs and saints could leave innumerable bones and skulls for display and reverence. The past is often visualized as pristine. However, the practice in towns of dumping animal carcasses and human and animal offal and garbage in the streets and water sources and the constant presence of smoke inside and outside dwellings indicated reality was far from pristine. I found this book to be fascinating and often surprising.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2010

    Great read!

    I enjoy reading about past eras but I am not so thrilled to read traditional history books that generally talk about dates, battles, kings, and other important people. This books is truly a guide through an era. The author adresses you as if you were a tourist landing in the middle of England in the 14th century. You will get to see how people lived, how they traveled (apparently they really did travel, it's a myth that they never did), where they stayed when they did travel, what they wore (apparently fashions changed a lot from the beginning of the century to the end), how they were treated for their illnesses (ugh!), what they ate - in short how they lived on a daily basis from cradle to grave. The book is beautifully researched and intelligently written. I highly recommend it.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2012

    One of the best history books I've ever read!

    Through the years, I have read quite a few history books on a wide range of topics. I learned more in the first 150 pages of this book than I have learned reading some books in their entirety. I can't recommend this books any higher - it's on my top 5 best history book list. More history should be written in this style and not the tried and true and BORING style of what wars were fought and who was ruling the country and nothing about how things actually were in the time period. Read this book!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    Make Way for a New Kind of Travel Guide

    If you visited 14th century England, this book would be an invaluable help. With a format similar to the modern series travel guides, Mortimer covers such essentials as what to wear, how to move about the country before road maps exist, what kind of horse to acquire and how much you can expect to pay for it. Where to stay during your travels, and which ten venues in London are not to be missed. Most important of all, the author warns you of customs unfamiliar to you which will help you avoid insulting someone, and even stay out of prison - a place you definitely do not want to visit. This book belongs in the library of every history buff who yearns for details under the major events of a century. What role do buttons play in clothing styles? Why could you not travel in a coach? According to law, how much money could you spend on the fabric of your clothes? What kind of underwear was worn? Why did most bridges have chapels built on them? This book is a treasury of minutiae which adds up to a very complete portrait of life in Medieval England.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a profound look at living in fourteenth century England

    Using the refreshing format of a travel guide, medieval historian Dr. Ian Mortimer provides a profound look at living in fourteenth century England. Besides a sense of touring, armchair travelers will learn much about diverse lifestyles beyond the typical warriors, farmers, and religious leaders as society is not just abuser-abused relationships. Part of the fun is how easily Dr. Mortimer explodes contemporary myths about life six centuries ago starting with the belief that squalor was the norm although cottage smog was a norm. With insight into medicine (or lack of) as the plague devastates England and the continent, readers will learn how people worked to put food on the table and the in your face with profanities sermons. With corpses hanging on the edge of town and in water supplies, history fans will appreciate a tour of Medieval England with Dr. Mortimer as a super guide who amongst other tidbits provides "Ten Places to See in London" a city of approximately 40,000 as an example of what to expect in this strong "Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century."

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    Highly Recommend if you love all things Medieval

    This is a must read if you enjoy all things Medieval

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Highly recommended

    a great read; I learned so much and can't wait to read his other books

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    Gift for my father

    I bought this book as a Christmas gift and my father wouldn't put it down all day, so it must be a good one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2014

    This is an extremely readable overview of 14th century English l

    This is an extremely readable overview of 14th century English life and culture. I read it as a companion to the novel A Burnable Book, and it was incredibly helpful at explaining things like the terminology for time or the relative value of money. Even on its own, this book is both entertaining and packed with information. It's a popularization of social history, so if you're looking for lists of kings and wars, you'll have to go elsewhere. But if you want to know about daily life and the distinctions between high and low, this is a good choice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Really interesting travel guide

    Did you ever wonder what life was like in England during the age after the Dark Ages? If so this is your book!!!
    The description of a city, much smaller than now and located within the walls, is really interesting. It made me hope my ancestors came from the area near the gate. The further from the gate the messier and dirtier it became.
    For anyone who wants a sense of reality added to their study of history from this era, this book is a must.

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  • Posted May 19, 2013

    I loved this book! Anyone who's ever taken a vacation and has u

    I loved this book!

    Anyone who's ever taken a vacation and has used some form of tour guide book will learn all sorts of ins and outs while enjoying your holiday in a strange place!

    This book does just that. It's a tour guide. But it's a tour back into time as well as place.

    It gives information on what to expect on your journey should you ever find yourself in a time machine. In fact I felt as though I WAS in a time machine.

    The everyday lives of everyday people is what I find so interesting about exploring another part of the world. And this book goes way beyond that!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2012

    Great read

    This book brings an era to life. Even if you are not particularly interested in 14th century England, I would still recommend this book if only for its philosophy on how to view history as still living.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    Acessable clear and fun

    A wonderful take on fascinating time A great read for historians of alstripes and peoplwho like good stories

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    See, taste, hear, smell 14th century England!

    A fascinating book that takes you into the everyday life of England in the 1300s - answers all the questions you have about how people of various walks of life made their way in the world! A history buff's delight!

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderfully practical information in a simple format that is eit

    Wonderfully practical information in a simple format that is either a fun, light read, or a great additional resource for academics and writers.

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    Posted November 23, 2010

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    Posted November 18, 2011

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