Ian Mortimer shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. He sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking you to the Middle Ages.
The result is the most astonishing social history book you are ever likely to read: evolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance and fear.
©2008 Ian Mortimer; (P)2009 Isis Publishing Ltd
"A jaunty journey through the 14th century, one that wriggles with the stuff of everyday life." (Guardian)
This book takes you by the hand and teaches you everything you need to know if you were to time-travel to medieval England, hence the title. Sometimes I almost felt the narrator walking by my side along the road, pointing at various places, people or events, stopping from time to time to explain some concept of medieval life that my 21st century brain might have trouble to comprehend.
Also, Mortimer succeeds in going into detail while keeping the listener entertained and attentive.
Finally, the narrator's voice is warm and clear, which is a big plus for me as English isn't my primary language.
A great read. I recommend this book to anyone who wonders what life would be if we were born in those times instead of our own.
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
If you are considering this book, then you are certainly already interested in 14th century English history. If that is the case, the choice is easy, since The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century (TTTGtME:AHfVttFC for short) basically describes exactly what the book does. It is entertaining, well-written, well-received by real critics, and (apparently, since they aren't in the audiobook) has lots of references. You'll learn all sorts of interesting facts, and be given some very vivid descriptions of everything from plagues to the experience entering a town.
The only weakness is that, since there is no real narrative or argument here, the book lacks a focal character or idea, and moves back and forth in time. To that extent, it is less compelling then, say Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, which gives a better sense of how individual lives progress in the Middle Ages by following one powerful family. It makes up for this in breadth, of course, and TTTGtME:AHfVttFC is immensely entertaining, and often enlightening, while being well-read. If you like the subject, you should certainly add it to your library.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
This is the most unique history book I've ever had the privilege to journey through. And make no mistake, this one is very much a journey. The author encourages you to use all 5 senses, peek behind every locked door, and worm your way into all walks of medieval society as though nobody noticed you weren't native to the time. I almost feel like this should be put into the hands of anyone who claims they don't like history, and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who's already interested. It's the perfect companion to any tome filled with names, dates, and places precisely because it isn't THAT book. Instead, it comes across more like a visceral experience. I'd love to have more books like this.
I love this time period in England and stumbled across this book recently while browsing for something new. I felt as if I had gone back in time and had my own personal tour guide who took the time to point out a lot of little details often left out of other medieval history books. I have listened to this book several times and never get tired of "looking" at medieval England while my guide answers all my questions.
"fabric artist and quilter"
This book is amongst the best I heard so far and a great idea bringing history to life. The author has lead a group of listeners as tourists back to 14th century England and lead us about the country pointing out interesting things and explaining their significance both to the times and also to the future.
I have always enjoyed medieval history and historical fiction. My favourite setting is England, and my favourite century is the fourteenth. This is a travel guide to England in the fourteenth century, and it really brought the time and place brilliantly to life. It is all in the present tense, and really does succeed in putting you right there among villeins, yeomen, sheriffs, forest outlaws, minstrelry, the 'great pestilence' (black death), manorial courts, etc etc. Loved every minute of it.
This book is amazing...I've been a long time fan of these times and have read lots of books like "Here Be Dragons" by Sharon K. Penman which anyone which likes these time should try (and there are two more of that trilogy) - but I've long wondered what it would be like to live there in those times and this book tells the story of how life is there - I've said many times that if I could go back to those times and be a King's sister or wife, I would...but after listening to this book I realize that I have it "pretty good" right here in 2010. This book is great and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys this time in history as I do, to hear what it is probably like. Definitely recommend this!
Hearing the mellifluous voice of Jonathan Keeble with his British accent definitely added to the impression that I was about to go on an adventurous journey to the time and place that the author described.
I'd compare it to some Bill Bryson books on travel
As mentioned, his accent contributed to the authenticity of the story.
You see the sights and hear the sounds, but be thankful that you don't smell the aromas.
For anyone who enjoys reading about the Middle Ages, it is a great companion to such books as Sir Gwain and the Green Knight and Chaucer's Tales because it helps put such stories into their proper context. Otherwise it's easy to transport such works into our contemporary society and be shocked by customs that were common then.
Hmmm... History as a travelogue.
The format works extremely well here. While the actual history is well, pedestrian, that's not the point.
By framing the exposition as "Here is what you'll find..." or "this might surprise you..." the reader is engaged with the culture on an intuitive level seldom experienced outside the trappings of historical fiction.
My reading and listening tastes are eclectic.
This a lighthearted examination of the English Middle ages. It only examines the 14th century, but I would love reading more of this same type of book for the English renaissance, early middle ages, and the Victorian age. The narrator was good for the book and there was a touch of humor in the narration. I learned a few things I didn't know, and I certainly wish there had been "smell-o-vision" even if the author assured that I didn't.
I only wish time travel was possible so I could go.
"Very, very interesting - highly recommended"
Decided to purchase this after several very enjoyable listens to Barbara W Tuchmann's - A Distant Mirror. While this is written / read in the same style - it was more... juicy. Almost like a 'Rough Guide' to the Middle Ages. Had two listens already - one after the other!
"A fascinating listen"
As someone who has an interest (albeit fairly 'amateur') in medieval history, I found listening to this audiobook both fascinating and informative. It is very well written and read out and a must for all those interested in social history.
"Totally unputdownable - recommend 100%"
I really didn't know much about this period in history (I had very poor history teachers at school) and being a sci-fi fan the title appealed to me. There wasn't much more behind my decision to purchase this book than that.
What I got was a really well structured book taking me through everyday life and society of the 14th century - town planning, fashion, travel, food and drink, humour, battle and war, chivalry, family life, medicine and health, well every part of life. Also I found it interesting how things changed over 100 years.
I almost felt prepared for my time travel journey to 14th century England but think I'd like to listen to it again before going to make sure I'm aware of all the customs and have noted the hints and tips to make sure I'm not swindled.
I had trouble pausing this audio book as I didn't want to stop listening! This is a complete surprise as I wouldn't have considered myself a history fan before listening to this.
It is definitely the one I recommend most highly of all the books I've listened to so far.
Brings to life the era in an entertaining and refreshing way.
Would recommend to anyone who enjoys History - this one is a little out of the ordinary and well worth a listen.
"Interest in medieval history I didnt know I had!"
Desperately looking for a 'factual' book to download for a holiday to compliment the usual beach novels I picked on this. Not a period of history I had a particular interest in.But when I started listening I became instantly hooked.
It transports you right bang into the middle of 14th Century England and all those things that get overlooked in more traditional history books are covered here.
The fascinating facts of every day living, from what to do if your ill to how to tell the time before clocks it's all here. I loved it,if only all history could be this easy!
If you have even a passing interest in history you will find this book an interesting and absorbing listen.
"Superb in every way !"
As I am interested in this era of British history, I decided to purchase it. The book is superbly written by Ian Mortimer, close your Eyes and listen, it's almost like being there living it. The book is excellently narrated, I wish other books from different times in our history were written in the same way as Ian Mortimer has done this book.
"Excellent and informative"
So many history books only focus on the major events in their given time. This book takes you down to the nitty gritty of every day life in Medieval England. It is well written and beautifully narrated. I would thoroughly recommend it.
"Good'ish in a difficult subject"
I've always been into Medieval history. This book is good on detail, does chop through things at quite a steady pace and mentions the same things a few times (suppose it's going to happen)... I listen to it while cycling... A few boring bits... But keep with it... Overall worth listening too...
"Interesting, immersive and utterly engaging"
I cannot praise this book highly enough. It brought a period of history alive for me, and I had not even realised I was all that interested to begin with. I have bought the book to give as gifts for people who weren't sufficiently moved by my enthusiastic raving to go out and buy it for themselves - but I wish I could afford to buy them the audiobook.
"History, learned painlessly"
If you were terrible at history in school, like me, but would love to learn a bit more about how everything worked, who was in charge and what it might have been like to live in the past, then this is an amazing book. I usually get audiobooks for the car, but on this one I couldn't hit pause! The narrator had a good pace and the topics from chapter to chapter were really interesting. Will definitely be recommending to friends!
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