Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England

A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
Ian Mortimer

The best thing about this book is it's enticing title. I was rather hoping for some instructions that would help me actually get to the fourteenth century, alas. After reading it, I would just as soon not visit such a dangerous time and place. The black death and all that - not to mention a considerable amount of gratuitous violence. I'd be safer walking around East St. Louis at night.

Ian Mortimer is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and has written biographies of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Edward III and Henry IV. Presumably he is related to the Earl, and to Edmund Mortimer, who plotted with Henry Percy to dethrone Henry IV and was immortalized as a bit part in Shakespeare's history play. Falstaff got better press, though.

If I did manage to get myself to fourteenth century England, perhaps with the help of Michael Crichton (who had an interesting, but somewhat problematical way of getting to medieval France in his novel Timeline), I would be sure to have brought along a copy of this book. Mortimer provides detailed information about every aspect of fourteenth century English life, from the social hierarchy to proper bathroom etiquette. It is proper to hold a conversation while sitting in a multi-hole latrine but one must wait to be spoken to first if sharing with someone of higher status.

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England would be invaluable to a historical novelist interested in writing about the period. A tremendous amount of research is done. It's just waiting for a good plot.


  1. Hi Clark,

    I have an award for you here:

  2. Another great post! Just wanted to say that I always look forward to reading your blog.

  3. This sounds like a great book! I am very interested in English history, particularly the medieval period. This looks like a must-read for me - thanks for the review.


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