Firstly, can I take this opportunity to express my love for this book’s strikingly gorgeous front cover? ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England’ by Ian Mortimer, is by far one of the most eye-catching books that I have ever had the pleasure to read. If you were to judge this book by its cover, you would no doubt be dazzled by it. Ian and his team deserve a round of applause for their efforts in creating such a colourful, fun and creative front cover!
Ok, waffling over… now onto the book itself. As you may have guessed, this was a book I unashamedly brought for its appearance – (please don’t judge me fellow book lovers)! However, its subject was something which has intrigued me for years, and I was desperate to see what it unveil about medieval England.
Thankfully, good ol’ Ian Mortimer did not let me down! His animated, witty and engrossing descriptions of English medieval life had my hooked from the very first page. I have never read another history book like it before. ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England’ flows just like a modern-day travel guide, so you soon feel pretty confident in your travels to 14th century England.
‘Why the 14th century?’ I hear you ask. Well, Ian Mortimer has a very good reason for this. He explains that by focusing on this one element within the medieval timeline, he is able to include the horrors of the Black Death, the consequences of the Hundred Years War and much, much more! Yet his research is not solely centred between 1300-1400, and insights into the precious and succeeding centuries are also used to help shed light on medieval life.
The book covers everything that you need to know, (and when I say ‘everything, I mean everything)! Ian guides you through all the social norms, such as what to wear; how to greet your superiors and how to eat your food respectfully. (The chapter on illness and medicine was admittedly my favourite part)!
Every level of medieval society – from the royal family to the pettiest criminal – is discussed in great detail. This Time-Traveller’s travel guide also makes sure that you are fully prepared for the dirt, the smells, the hustle and the bustle, which you are certain to encounter during your 14th century adventure. Any questions that you have concerning ‘what to do’ or ‘what not to do’ within medieval England, are all to be found within the pages of this book. Ultimately this makes ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England’ a rather insightful, yet immensely entertaining read!
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of myths which Ian debunked throughout this book. Did you know for example, that many individuals in 14th century England actually travelled quite extensively? Or that the lower classes gained more social freedoms during this time? All these little snippets into everyday life, only heightened my fascination with the medieval world and brought much clarification to this period in history.
I very quickly realised that I was a little late in joining ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide’ fan club… By the time I read this book, Ian Mortimer had already published two other books on Elizabethan and Reformation England. What’s more, as soon as I brought the book into work, many of my colleagues mentioned how much they too enjoyed reading this book. If – like me – you are new to the awesomeness of ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England’, then rest assured that you are in for a treat! By recreating the sights, sounds and smells of Medieval England, Ian Mortimer does an exceptional job of bridging the 600-year-gap between the 14th and 21st centuries. By flicking through the pages, you feel as if you are actually watching it all unfold!
What really impressed me about this book, was Mortimer’s encouragement to not view medieval society as inferior to our own. If anything, individuals who lived 600 years ago had an awful lot in common with ourselves, and this book does a brilliant job in proving that. Despite their dirty, violent, superstitious and unjust world, medieval society grappled with the human emotions which we still contend with today. Everyone laughed, and everyone cried. Everyone mourned, and everyone loved. Everyone sought aid and relief from their woes. Many worked, earned a wage and protected their own. Many took pride in their appearance and aimed to better themselves. Everyone felt the urge to discover more about the world they lived in, and through their curiosities our modern world emerged.
This book does make you question the consequences of time-travelling. Should the past remain in the past? Maybe we should be grateful that we’ll never experience the hardships which plagued our medieval ancestors? Yet whatever your answer may be, Ian Mortimer has proven that through the pages of a Time Traveller’s Guide, we can still enjoy a glimpse into the chaotic, glorious and magical world that is Medieval England.
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