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.
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.
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 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.
"This is how History should be experience."
What a surprising and refreshing way to experienced history and a culture that is no more. I found this both entertaining and educational experience. With such excellent Audio Narration this is indeed an experience, and not some text you read in a history book.
All History should be written like this. Academic language used in traditional historic books dull the experience of the reader. Ian Mortimer has indeed set a benchmark to how History should be taught and experienced. Other History Writer could learn from the style of this Historic experience.
"Fab Frolic through Medieval England"
An excellent book!! I couldn't stop listening.
It is an excellent source of information about the medieval period. I have used it with my GCSE and A-Level History Students. They thoroughly enjoyed it as it made the past come alive and allowed them to get an in-depth look at life during that time.
"History Made Interesting & Accessible"
Typically, history books are pretty dry and unappealing reads at the best of times. However, the approach of this book was novel and original and therefore I thought I'd take a look.
I was not disappointed.
This is more like a guide book (as its title suggests) than a monologue on life in the 14th century and as such has a much wider appeal to those who might not consider this sort of work of interest.
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
is nonetheless an informative and entertaining read and will give the listener a real sense of what it was like to really live in that century. It places the listener as if you were actually there and points out all sorts of things about life back then you may not have thought about.
For those students of history this title is well worth a look as it is extremely detailed and well researched and will offer insights from a different point of view some history buffs may not have encountered before.
What really brings this book to life is the excellent narration by Jonathan Keeble . It is so naturally delivered that you might well think it's being recited from memory and is full of inflections and accents that really make it come to life.
Educational, insightful, entertaining and above all fun. This will teach you a thing or two and is worthy of your time.
I can't think of a bad thing to say about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would struggle to think of why anyone wouldn't be fascinated by it. History brought to life. Nice narration too.
"One of the best books I have read in recent month."
Informative and entertaining this book gives a fascinating insight into this particular period of history. In addition, Jonathan Keeble's wonderful and skilled narration was totally enjoyable. Once started I could not 'put it down'.
"Time Traveller's Guide for epic geekage"
I purchased this item partly out an interest in the period and also as a writer of role play material. Others have comented on it merits for entertainment and accuracy so I will leave that to them. However for anyone who is involved in RPing of any kind set in a medievil setting this is a must have resource, it takes you into a world of sensory secription that will help you to write full and compelling worlds.
A fascinating jaunt through medieval England made all the more pleasant by an excellent narration.
"A great introduction to medieval history"
This was a fabulous book from begining to end. It is well researched and written, interesting throughout and well read. This book scored 10 out of 10 in my opinion. Indeed it was so good that I listened to it again, ordered the hard-back book and ordered other works by Ian Mortimer. Whilst listening to this book I could not help thinking that I wish I had read this whilst studying history at university 20 years ago as this book, unlike many of the works I read for my degree, captured my interest, and made me think about what it must have been to live in the fourteenth century. I would heartilly recommend this book to anyone who is inteseted in medieval and social history as Mortimer's book reads like a 'rough guide' to medieval England.
I enjoyed listening to this and it really does give you a feel for what Mediaeval England must have been like. The only slight problem I had was that sometimes factual books like this don't work as well audibly as fiction - so sometimes it felt a bit like listening to lists. But if you are interested in the period, certainly worth a listen
"Great concept but ..."
I admired the concept of this book - making history more accessible and helping the reader appreciate the more human elements of medieval day to day life. It is well written and easy to understand but I still struggled at times to absorb the information. Perhaps my style of listening ? intermittent short bursts while walking/catching the train is not suited to this type of book which requires more concentration than some. Still worth a read and it certainly improved my knowledge of medieval England.
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