cover image The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

Ian Mortimer, Author Touchstone Books $26 (342p) ISBN 978-1-4391-1289-2

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.