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Publisher's Summary

Imagine you could travel back to the 14th century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? And what are you going to eat?

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

Critic Reviews

"A jaunty journey through the 14th century, one that wriggles with the stuff of everyday life." ( Guardian)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Detailed, Interesting and Entertaining

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.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Loved It!

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.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Prepare to Dig Deeper Than You Thought Possible

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.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Fun popular history that stays on task

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.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Lori
  • Colorado Springs, CO, United States
  • 12-01-10

If you love Medieval...

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!

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely wonderful

So what was life like in the 14th century? I have often wondered how people lived during the feudal period in England and suspected that the movie versions were not only wrong but completely misleading, but I never actually knew. This book filled in those answers.

What Mr Mortimer has done is provide a witty, educated and well rounded look at life during the 1300s that covers almost all of the areas that I, personally, was interested in. This book discusses what life was like for both the ordinary people, the nobility and those between and covers so many areas of life - the law, medicine, education, food, religion, town markets, travel, class and moral obligations, manorial justice and much more - that you can not help but come away both educated and entertained. His writing is full of wit, light, breezy and, at the same time, he manages to cover all aspects of life during this period in great detail and answer questions that were forming in my mind as I read. In summary I enjoyed this book so much that the first thing I did when I finished it was to look to see if he had any other books of the same type about other eras of English history and, when I found one, I immediately put it on my wish list.

The book is very well read my Jonathan Keeble and listening to it was almost as much fun as a real vacation. Highly recommended to those who want to know how people lived during Medieval England.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and informative

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Brandon
  • SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, United States
  • 06-29-13

At times, you almost feel your are there.

I was quite surprised at how effectively this book immersed me in 14th century England, largely by simply changing the tense of verbs and writing in the second person. I've heard this book described as a 'gimmick', apparently unbecoming of a professional historian, but it turns what could otherwise be a rather dry history of tax ledgers, merchant inventories, archaeological insights, city codes, and business regulations into a fascinating picture of the world our ancestors lived in 700 years ago. Make no mistake, this is a professionally researched and highly accurate social history of the 14th century, the amount of research that must have gone into it is astounding in its own right. But it is presented in such a way as to be both useful to the professional historian and quite entertaining to the average reader. You will learn a lot from this book, though it is never a chore; but more than simply learning about the period, you will come to understand the hopes, fears, and concerns that motivated the people who lived through it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Wishing I could go there!

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Ann
  • Mount Martha, Australia
  • 10-15-12


Wonderful, brilliant, magnificent - the final words brought tears to my eyes. Will listen to again & seek out similar works

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicola
  • 10-21-09

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.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Marvin
  • 06-01-09

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.

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • anthonyunionjackson
  • 05-06-09

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!

40 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Norma Miles
  • 02-25-15

Signposts would have been helpful to find the way

This is certainly a very worthy listen and I know that I have learned a lot of facts but it was not what I had expected. I had anticipated a more experiential journey through the homes and lives of the people, both rich and poor. And this book does give glimpse, but so stuffed with dates, names, place and time changes that the text became, for me, incoherent. I would far rather, for example, have visited a fairly typical small village , for example, and been shown the homes the food, the daily routines, customs, health, religious feelings etc of the villagers there before moving into the towns or talking about the more wealthy and the aristocracy. But all tended to segue into each other. This was not helped by the lack of chapter titles and even the numbered sections didn't seem to conform to any specific subject area.
Overall, Jonathan Keeble did well as a narrator but even he seemed to tire beneath the relentless lists of dates and titles at times. His finest reading also coincided with my favourite part of the book : the last 15 minutes - not because of relief that it was almost at an end but because, at last the author started to talk freely about the meaning of the past. Would that the rest of the book had flowed as easily.
Possibly the fault lies in this being an audio book and a written version would be more accessible.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Delboy
  • 05-30-09

Very enjoyable.

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.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Margaret Clare Stoll
  • 07-07-09

Very enjoyable

I'm enjoying this enormously. Once I'd left school I always enjoyed historical fiction more than the history I'd been taught at grammar school for 'O' levels (oops, showing my age!) because I was much more interested in 'bringing the past to life' than in bare facts and figures.

The 14th century, which this book focuses on rather than any of the other 'medieval' centuries, was one of fundamental change, radical new ideas, tumultuous events - the Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt - and yet a lot of things stayed basically the same.

I was fascinated by the way fashions changed, and yet the people could be doing exactly the same jobs, dressed differently, from their grandparents. The prosperous villein driving his plough-team of oxen is dressed differently from his grandfather earlier in the century, but he's still driving a team of oxen, scowling at the man guiding the plough! People's jobs did not change. The sumptuary laws meant that you had to dress according to your 'station in life', not just whether you could afford better, or not. It reminded me of that hymn that goes 'The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate. God made them high or lowly, and ordered their estate'.

Those earlier times are where that thinking came from. It has lasted until quite recent times.

This book really does go into the basic minutiae of life and brings it all vividly into focus. More please, other centuries!

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Frankie
  • 10-24-10

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.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Heather
  • 02-24-11

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.

38 of 43 people found this review helpful

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  • Colin
  • 10-12-11

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.

Highly recommended.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard
  • 03-16-10

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Lawrence
  • 01-15-15

A fascinating glimpse into human nature

Fascinating to see that what shaped humans in the 14th c still shapes them now. The insight that we have not changed very much at all since then (a point that the author is not really trying to make), makes the book worthwhile on its own. The insights into law, corruption, vice, day to day existence and the social structure from serf to Kung and everything else is also wonderful. Well told and absorbing thanks to the skilled narrator and excellent writing.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • elaine
  • 11-02-17

Great book.

Total immersion into another time and place. I loved it.
The narrator was easy on the ears too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful