Thursday, July 19, 2012

A timely approach to medieval history

Image from Simon and
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England:
A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
By Ian Mortimer 
Simon & Schuster/Touchstone Books

    I like history, but sometimes it's a bit dry. So the title of this history book caught my eye. It's not literally a "guide for time travelers," and not much text is wasted on the title conceit. Instead, it's a history of England from 1301-1400, organized not so much by chronological order as by subject. Rather than recount every event that occurred in England in the 14th century, it describes what life was like for the English people: how they lived, where they lived, what they wore, what they ate and drank, what was the currency and wages, what medical care was like, what did they do for entertainment. 
     The period covered includes the Black Death (which, he explains, wasn't referred to as "the Black Death" until the 19th century), the peasant's revolt and Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," so space is devoted to these topics as well.
     There were times when the book dragged a little for me, but it ended strong, and I can recommend it.  
     Mortimer has a few other books out, including a similar guide for Elizabethan England (1558-1603), and I may look for that one as well. 


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