Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (October 25, 2011)
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.
Review from Publishers Weekly:
In this compelling volume, Medieval history expert Mortimer (The Fears of Henry IV) transports readers to jolly, squalid old England for a thorough survey of everyday 14th century life. Going beyond the “nasty, brutish and short” of it, Mortimer’s immersive visitor’s-guide approach to popular history gives readers a seamless sense of being there. The population is young-“Half of the population is aged twenty-one or less”-but incredibly diverse. The idea that social classes were distinct and few-fighters, prayers, and farmers-gets exploded in Mortimer’s examination society and the Medieval character, including everything from humor and juggling to mariners to doctors. Mortimer even argues, convincingly, over relative standards of hygiene (“to regard a medieval kitchen as ‘dirty’ because it has not been wiped down with modern detergent is to apply our own standards inappropriately”). He also looks at the role of period’s four greatest writers of the time , and reveals the horrors of contemporary medicine (with terrifying descriptions of the plague) and law (the outskirts of every town were decorated with the hanged corpses of minor criminals). Mortimer’s toungue-in-cheek vistor’s guide is an impressive accomplishment, turning 600 years of history transparent to give 21st century audiences a clear view on Medieval life.
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Rating on Amazon: 4.5 stars