The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England – Book Review

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

As I’ve started to branch out from the Tudors, I’ve become more and more interested in the earlier period, Medieval England.  Of course when I am looking for recommendations on books set in the medieval period, I go to my favorite medieval history grad student and book blogger, Medieval Bookworm.  Some time ago she started talking about a book she was reading, “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England.”  She raved about it, and got me very interested, so when I was offered a review copy from Simon and Schuster, I jumped at the chance to read it.

The premise of “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” is fairly obvious from the title.  Ian Mortimer has written the book you will need if you suddenly decide to take a trip to Medieval England.  Now, you may be about to protest that you aren’t going to be taking a trip to Medieval England any time soon, and wonder why you should read this.  Well, are you interested in history?  In historical fiction? An approach like Mortimer’s is a fantastic way to get a feel for a time and place.

“The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” is divided into eleven sections:

  • The Landscape
  • The People
  • The Medieval Character
  • Basic Essentials
  • What to Wear
  • Traveling
  • Where to Stay
  • What to Eat and Drink
  • Health and Hygiene
  • The Law
  • What to Do

I really learned a lot from this book.  Mortimer walks very well the line between being accessible to those who may not have much depth of knowledge about the time period and not talking down to those who do.  A passing knowledge of the reigning kings of the 14th century would certainly be helpful before reading, but if you don’t even know that much you won’t be lost.  I anticipated reading perhaps a chapter at a time, interspersing “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” with unrelated fiction in order to keep my interest up, but I found myself reading chapter after chapter greedily, hungry for the knowledge that Mortimer imparts so painlessly.

I don’t know that I can give “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” much higher praise than saying that it made me really excited to read “The Canterbury Tales” – Chaucer and his Tales are referenced quite often – and even just by partway through the first tale, there have been two or three things that I understood much better than I otherwise would have.

Really, if you have any interest in Medieval England at all, this will be an invaluable resource, helping provide background and context for other works of history and historical fiction.  Plus, it is so readable!

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from Bobbie at Simon and Schuster.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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20 comments to The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England – Book Review

  • This sounds like something that I would find fascinating. And I remember really enjoying The Canterbury Tales when I read it a few years ago. Some of the stories were hilarious!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Sunday Salon =-.

  • Ooh, I remember seeing this on Medieval Bookworm and wanting it really badly, too! It sounds so wonderful and informative and it looks so pretty :-) Glad you enjoyed it!

  • This is definitely a fascinating book! I’m glad you loved it too. I am a big fan of the Canterbury Tales. I think they’re fascinating and usually very funny.

  • Perfect! Some years ago I started a YA book based on an experience my son had that was going to result in…time travel to medieval England! I couldn’t find enough information to make me feel like I was writing an accurate enough story to satisfy me. This sounds like just the thing I need to pull that piece back out. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  • You know, it doesn’t sound like something that would be fun and readable, so that is great that it inspired you! I will admit, I haven’t read much from that period, except the two Ken Follet books about building a cathedral (Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End) which I really loved alot.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – Lake Eola #2 =-.

  • I agree with you – Meghan is the one to go to for medieval information. I know next to nothing about the time period, so maybe I should read this book.

  • I was so excited to see this pop up in my google reader! I have this book on my to-read list to satisfy a slot in the Tournament of Reading reading challenge; I can’t wait til the library gets their copy in. I don’t usually read about this time period, so it’ll all be new and interesting to me, I do believe :).

  • Anything that makes you want to read Canterbury Tales must be good :)

  • Ti

    This books looks really good. I like the way it’s split up. So glad you included that info.

  • As someone with a history degree can I just say that this book sounds AWESOME!
    .-= Amused´s last blog ..Not My Cup of Slim Fast =-.

  • I have wanted to read this since I first saw Meghan’s review. As soon as BLOB is over, I’m buying it!
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Guest Post: Philipp Meyer (American Rust) =-.

  • I hadn’t heard of this before, but as someone who shares a fascination with the medieval period, this sounds like a great book!
    Thanks for the review.

  • Really glad to see you think that this one is highly readable. I read the same thing in a journal review, but I trust my fellow bloggers much more! :)
    .-= A Bookshelf Monstrosity´s last blog ..Naked in the Library =-.

    • He talks about the variety of dialects and languages used in medieval England, but he doesn’t single any one of them out to teach the reader. For that you would want to consult a book specifically on Middle English. Reading Chaucer is the best way to learn, since his dialect of Middle English is the one from which modern English mostly stems.

  • This sounds really interesting, I love to read books like this. Thanks for the great review!

  • Mae

    I have been lusting after this book! Great review. I think it’s a lovely approach to take readers as a ‘tourist’ to medieval England.

  • I’ve heard good things about this book and definitely want to pick it up after your review. Thanks!

  • I just checked this book out from the library. As an English major, I must say this book is incredibly well written. His writing style kind of reminds me of Dava Sobel (author of Longitude). I’m so glad you recommended it!