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)
Jonathan Keeble gives an excellent reading of Ian Mortimer's depiction of life in the 14th century. It's important to note the century, because even though the title refers to the Medieval period, the book focuses on a time that was pretty near the end of that period. It is, as much as anything else, a background study for lovers of Geoffrey Chaucer - who turns out, in the closing pages, to be the closest thing to a hero the book describes.
Mortimer's range is vast and his style is easy. The "time traveler" idea is a light framework for the discussion: it lets him address "you," the reader, in the second person, making the narrative even more vivid.
I don't know if the book includes everything, because it's the first one I've read on the subject. But it covers a lot: the layout of towns, the location of markets and privies, the clothes, the currency, the food, the houses (and hovels), and laws and outlaws. (By definition, an outlaw was someone who had put himself outside the protection of the law and could be beheaded on sight by anyone.) There are broad descriptions, but there are also fascinating anecdotes.
It was a brutal, dirty, smelly time, but Mortimer's account isn't one of unremitting misery. He talks about dances and music and plays, about the kinds of trees to be found in the forests, and the boys who played football in the streets.
It's an enjoyable listen, and it whetted my appetite for more - more books about the period, and more books by Ian Mortimer.
Mortimer brings Medieval England to life with his time traveller's guide. This book is rich in fascinating details of medieval life, many of which I heard for the first time despite having a degree in European history. Mortimer's approach to writing this book as though a travel guide really made me rethink the way I read, understand and analyze history. The stories and details take place in familiar places and in a history we all know well but it was not until I listened to this book that I felt I began to have a real understanding of the culture of the past and the people who lived in it.
Chapters are divided into sections such as law, food, travel, entertainment, etc. and explains to the would be traveller what he/she would be likely to encounter in Medieval England and dangers to look out for along the way.
My only complaint is that, at times, in the interest of providing more scholarly detail, the book slips away from its travel guide style that is so enjoyable.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in British history.
history, medieval, england
Description of the elaborate outfits worn by the nobility.
His accent fit the theme of the book, but was not overpowering. A peppering of music examples where appropriate would have been a nice touch.
The producers of this recording should have included a couple examples of the songs and instruments played during the period.
I have a primary love of music and pretty much an insatiable curiosity of history, art, science, current affairs, and all things bicycling.
A unique approach to telling the every day lives of the peoples that lived during this period in world history. Most books that give over views of a large historical period usually get lost in the names and dates of this and that, by using a travel log approach Mr Mortimer puts you into the period.
This is one of the first non-fiction titles I've ever listened to, and I'm glad to say that I really enjoyed it! It was well put together and presented, and very well read.
There was a lot of humour in Keeble's performance, which was very appropriate to the style of the book. A "travel guide" to a particular time in history is an amusing idea, and Keeble presented the subject matter in an upbeat and appealing manner, all without discounting the seriousness of current issues of the day nor diminishing the daily reality of people living at the time.
I would have liked to hear more about the Peasant's Revolt near the end of the century.
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.
Written in an engaging style - definitely not dry or 'text-book' style - very much like a travel guide to a location. It connected activities, events, and customs to present day. Jonathan Keeble's performance was so fluid, it was as though you could've been sitting across from him in a pub just having a chat. I just came back from a trip to England and had a marvelous time - wished I had listened to this before! Having visited some of the locales mentioned really fleshed out the imagery for me.
My goal is to be one of the greatest literary giants in writing. Though my books do not sell, my goal now is to help those who are successful in writing, to become even greater.
Mortier brings the reader face to face with the conditions of real life, real smells, and real emotions of this turbulent era of Medieval History. I believe all A.P. World History Teachers should recommend their students buy this audio version. We are in a digital age, and print is now heard more than read or will be within 20 years. Mortier could bring this arte (art in Greek) effort to the Renaissance or the Byzantine Empire.
The Opening where he states: "Imagine you are in..." To be honest I have yet to finish this work, but it is so engaging the listener or reader is immersed in the time traveler narrative device Mortier places in our ears.
It is the pace Keeble brings to the peace which fits the historical context of the Opus. Jonathan Keeble does not try to be something he is not. He is, to be sure, a noted historian of us own right.
Yes this book is of great repeating value.
Although before listening, I was on the fence with this book... I found myself ranking it among my top reads/listens lately.
Mortimer presents the facts of the period alongside the concerns and questions one might ask in various situations. This approach to history truly puts you in the middle of Medieval England. A retelling of history that is as entertaining as any great historical fiction.
"Two stars off for the lack of proper chapters!"
A very interesting if rather over-long 'rough guide' to medieval England, going into immense detail about every aspect of life in the 1300s. It certainly gave me a very good flavour of how life would have been and in particular made me more aware of Edward III and his achievements (such as introducing English as the official language at court). Some sections were much more interesting than others, but generally it kept its grip throughout.
I thought the narrator was OK - at times his delivery was a little too fast when dealing with quite detailed information so I had to scroll back to hear it again; at other times it was just teetering on 'dry as dust'. I'm not sure, though, whether a more dramatic narrator would have fared better with reeling off such a wealth of detail.
At almost 12 hours' running time this is an immensely long and generally enjoyable listen, but it was almost wrecked for me because it's been lazily chopped up into arbitrary 35-40 minute segments, making it almost impossible to find a particular section again or relocate my latest listening point. Usually I'd only deduct one star for this failing, but in such a long audiobook it makes it very hard work when every 'chapter' starts somewhere in the middle of a section.
I found this quite an interesting book. I do wonder if I might have taken it in a bit more reading it rather than listening to it but it was still good and you'll find yourself coming out with various nuggets out of it either with friends or colleagues. Narration was fine.
"A real journey into the past"
If only the authorities made this style of presenting history mandatory in our schools.....Ian Mortimer really brings out the way in which England worked in the 14th Century. Interestingly, and unusually, this book covers not only the gentry, but the lives of the everyday man, woman and child, whose stories are often untold.
I am not a monster of history, so can commend this book to anyone who has a modicum of interest in learning a bit about how we got to where we are.
"TIME TRAVELLERS GUIDE"
IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP READING.I REFER BACK TO IT ALL THE TIME AND CONSTANTLY FIND PASSAGES THAT HOLD MY INTEREST AND EXPAND MY KNOWLEDGE.DON'T MISS THE CHANCE TO ENJOY THIS WELL WRITTEN AND EYE OPENING TREATISE.
"A stroll through history"
This is an excellent book, and the narrator remains engaging and informative throughout.
What is striking is how very similar life in the medaevil time was to life today. People still worked for bosses who kept the lion's share of any profit, took trips to see famous sights where they bought souvenirs, saw doctors who were basically making it up as they went along, and if accused of a crime, found the burden of proof to be upon themselves to prove their innocence.
I especially enjoyed the chapters on travelling around the country and the sights and people you were likely to meet, and the way the book explodes many long-held myths about life in the 14th Century.
"Completely fascinating book"
Completely fascinating book. I learnt something every minute. Loved it. If you've ever wondered what it was like living in the middle ages - this is the book for you.
"Glorious writing and performance"
This is one of the most enthralling books I've read for a while, and the best non-fiction book I have ever listened to. With topics as wide ranging as hygiene, justice, poetry, entertainment, personal relationships and even units of measurement this is a truly detailed look at C14th England.
Jonathan Keeble's performance adds an extra level of fascination by bringing the people to life with fantastic accents - French cleric was a particular favourite! He is able to switch from narration to the court records or comic poetry just right every time. I wouldn't hesitate putting him in the category of "vocal artist".
The only fault I have with this book is that it ended. I can only hope Ian Mortimer turns his hand to other centuries. I would love to see this made into a series.
I listened to the book all in one session. I think that I will revisit some of the contemporary literature next.
So informative and fun at the same time. Very well read. I'm hoping for more of the same in the future
"Time travel at it's best!"
I love the Time Traveller guides and have read and listened to most of them. a great book!
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