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

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

by Ian Mortimer
4.2 61


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

Now in paperback, a literary time machine that takes readers into the sights, smells, and tastes of the fourteenth century—a book that is revolutionary in its concept and startling in its portrayal of humanity.

The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook. A time machine has just transported you back into 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.

Through the use of daily chronicles, letters, household accounts, and poems of the day, Mortimer 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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439112908
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 10/25/2011
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 78,891
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Ian Mortimer is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and was awarded the Alexander Prize in 2004 for his work on the social history of medicine. He holds a Ph.D. in history and a higher doctorate from the University of Exeter. He has penned five other medieval books, most recently the revolutionary study Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies. He has also worked for several archive and historical research organizations in the UK, where he lives with his wife and children. Visit Ian at

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Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
LN_Adcox More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Nank More than 1 year ago
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.
Wiz74 More than 1 year ago
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!
Mario_de_la_Vega More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read about Medieval history. The author recreates the sights, sounds and smells of Medieval England. Imagine a Rick Steves for the 14th century and he takes you through everything from traveling, lodging, dressing and eating. I recomend it for anyone who loves history and there is enough there to satisfy even the most demanding history buff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a great read; I learned so much and can't wait to read his other books
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
ChrisofDuke More than 1 year ago
This is not your normal history book about Midieval England. What sets it apart from most history books which gives you fact after fact after fact, is the visual style the author gives. He describes the sights and smells that you would find around the 14th century England. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in English history.
scholarlyjane More than 1 year ago
This is a must read if you enjoy all things Medieval
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
74scruffy74 More than 1 year ago
If you would like to feel what it may have been like during Medieval England, this is the book for you. The format and the way the material was presented was first rate. I went on an adventure and was able to be there and experience medieval times, that I have no doubt were real. If you are interested in history told in a way that involves the reader, this is the book for you. I enjoyed this experience very much.
DesC More than 1 year ago
A lot of time and research was obviously put into writing this book , but it just wasnt very gripping. I found myslef losing interest in a subject I normally find intriguing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just discovered Ian Mortimer.  First book I read was Mr. Mortimer's Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England.  Most of all your curiosity of past times will be answered with Mr. Mortimer's books.  Reading his works is actually like "time travel". I plan on reading every book he has written.  
ebroMN More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written book that is both informative and easy to read. He covers how the nobles, the clergy, and the peasants lived and what they ate, along with other fascinating details of life in 14th century England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A cracking read. Informative and well-written. I felt totally immersed in the period Mortimer describes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Bookie-Book More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun book to read, sometimes got a bland with some of the chapters but good overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful take on fascinating time A great read for historians of alstripes and peoplwho like good stories