In his follow-up to The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer takes the reader forward in time about 200 years to show what everyday life was like for people from all walks of life during the time of Elizabeth I. As with the previous book, the reader is immersed in all the sensory details of life in that time period, making this a far more absorbing historical study than many of the other nonfiction books about the Elizabethan Age.
History tends to focus on this period as a Golden Age. This is true in terms of exploration, literary accomplishments and military victories. However, many faced periods of famine, and everyone continued to be threatened by epidemics of the plague and sweating sickness. Religious turmoil also continued during Elizabeth’s reign, pitting Protestants against Catholics and Puritans against pretty much everybody else. Mortimer uses historical evidence to present a balanced account of both the trials and triumphs of the period.
The book is written so that we as readers are as close as we can get to actually being in 16th-century England, witnessing the day-to-day activities of rural and city folk, the poor and the rich. We get a glimpse into what they’re thinking and feeling as well as how they talk, eat, and dress (perhaps the most confusing chapter of the book for me—there was a mind-boggling assortment of wardrobe pieces for women). We also learn how they deal with crime, disease, travel, and hygiene.
Mortimer approaches these topics with humor and wit, making The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England much more engaging than most other history books. The works cited shows evidence of Mortimer’s exhaustive research, and the attention to every detail brings the Elizabethan people to vivid life on every page. As an Elizabethan scholar, I found this book an absolute joy to read.