The Time-Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England

Thank you all for your expressions of sympathy. It helps, as much as anything can. And now returning to our regularly scheduled programming…

book coverThe Time-Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer The title might say most of it – but I’ll elaborate a little more. To start with, Mortimer picks just one century of the middle ages, the tumultuous 14th century, home to Chaucer and the Great Plague and my favorite fashions, among other things. Rather than the standard approach of looking at the important people and events, he talks about what you’d need to know if you were actually to go to fourteenth century England as a tourist. What would the landscape look and sound like? How should you behave and what should you wear so as not to offend anyone? How do the different types of people live and eat? I found that I had to skip the detailed chapter on medical care, though that depends on your personal tolerance level. Still, so many aspects were covered and wittily described that I found myself engrossed and frequently wanting to share. Alas, my love decided that he wanted to read the book as well and so would not let me. Mortimer also discusses the philosophy behind his approach – reminding us that these were real people who shared a basic humanity with us and whose actions continue to affect life in modern-day England (this is explained in more detail especially in the legal chapter.) It’s unfair, he says, to call a fourteenth-century housewife dirty because she doesn’t clean with antibacterial wipes – our cleaning methods will probably seem ineffectual in 700 years, too, but that doesn’t mean that either we or the hypothetical housewives don’t care about cleanliness. There’s a lot to enjoy here both for the history buff and the re-enactor, and the annotated end-notes give even more commentary and jumping-off points for those who want to take it further.

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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