Mortimer, Ian. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

I read this immediately after Liza Picard’s excellent survey of Victorian London and the two works make an interesting contrast. The jacket blurbs on Mortimer’s book call it an “incredible tour de force,” with which I must disagree strongly.

The author is a prize-winning academic historian — a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, in fact — but his narrative style here is just too coy and cutesy. I could have done without the conceit that this is a guide for time travelers, which means it’s all written in present tense and includes a lot of “look over there” constructions. His approach is topical, with chapters on “Landscape,” “People,” “Health and Hygiene,” “The Law,” and so on. These are rather broad and sometimes (as in “What To Do”) a bit unfocused. As to the actual information he imparts: Well, knowing something about medieval social history, I didn’t find any recognizably inaccurate observations or bizarre interpretations, so in terms of learning about the subject, it appears to be a useful volume. If only he could have been a bit more adult about it.

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Published in: on 5 December 2011 at 6:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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