Medieval England is a topic of fascination for many historians and non-historians alike. However, nonfiction books on this topic can often be scholarly and dry to the average reader. Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England is a pleasure to read because it is written in an accessible way, offering sensory details that many other books on this topic don’t explore.
Mortimer explains that medieval England is a foreign country, even to modern-day Brits. Fourteenth-century beliefs, traditions, customs, and lifestyles are different from those of 21st-century England. Therefore, his approach to this history is to write about it in the form of a travel guide, as if the reader is traveling from the 21st century to the fourteenth.
The reader is the star of the book, arriving first to the cathedral city of Exeter. The magnificent cathedral is the dominant, awe-inspiring sight, but then the reader is assailed by the smell of rotting meat, garbage, and human excrement in the area that serves as the city dump.
The book takes readers through rural and urban areas all over medieval England, where they’re introduced to the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of a variety of environments ranging from peasant dwellings to aristocratic estates. The people of this period become vivid in the reader’s mind: how they look, talk, and possibly think.
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England helps readers understand what it meant to live in the 14th century—how shopping, washing, dressing, worshipping, eating, working, playing, and other details of everyday living were carried out by people from all walks of life. Readers also get detailed insight into how medicine was practiced, how laws were enforced, what currency system was used, and how other parts of the world were perceived.
History buffs will enjoy The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England if they prefer having history brought to life rather than merely studying it. It is a colorful, fascinating, and superbly researched examination of life in the 14th century.