The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England

June 26, 2013 History, non-fiction 12

16158562Title: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England
Author: Ian Mortimer
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: In Elizabethan times, assigned rations often included a gallon of beer a day.
Review Summary: The level of detail is incredible, especially since it’s presented  in a way that will not only keep your interest, but also make you feel immersed in Elizabethan England.

Have you ever wondered what people in Elizabethan England ate, what they built their houses out of, how they spoke, or what they did for entertainment? This book answers all of those questions and more, giving you a picture of daily life that many other history books leave out. Every aspect of Elizabethan life is covered in detail, with sections covering topics from religion to entertainment. Particularly unique is the inclusion of information on the lives of the middle and lower class.

I found the first chapter of The Time Traveler’s Guide a little hard to get through. The description of the landscape made me hold details about what was in all directions in my head at once and it made it hard to see the big picture. If you experience the same thing, don’t let that deter you! The rest of the book flew by. Topics described were easier to picture and I found the glimpse I got of every day life in Elizabethan England fascinating. I particularly liked that the author would say things like “if you went up and spoke to one of those peasants…” or “as you’re walking down the street, you’ll most likely see…”. It made me picture being there very vividly.

Another really nice touch was the inclusion of specific information known about real people. The statement “farmers kept most of their money invested in live stock” is far less interesting than hearing that “John Smith kept cows, sheep, and pigs that were worth most of his monetary value”. These examples made the information feel much more real, personal, and immediate. The direct quotes provided the finishing touch on the immersive experience this book provides. Some quotes were explained so well that humor transcended time, an impressive feat given how hard it is to translate humor across cultures. Overall, the many details, the quotes, the inclusion of the reader in the scenes described, and the personal touches made this the perfect book for getting a feel for the Elizabethan Era.

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12 Responses to “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England”

  1. TracyK

    This sounds like an interesting way to learn history. I don’t read much nonfiction, but this sounds worth trying. Very nice review.

    • DoingDewey

      It was very approachable for sure, although I think I might recommend some narrative non-fiction more highly if you’re not usually a non-fiction reader. The Black Count, Lost in Shangri-La, and Six Wives are all particularly good examples.

  2. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    I know I would loooove this book! I’m such a nerd for historical facts 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Me too! Really, for any sorts of fun facts. Some of my favorite books have been ones where I’m constantly scribbling down ideas for the fun fact at the beginning of my post 🙂

  3. Gerard

    This one looks like fun — Liza Picard has authored three or four books on the minutiae of daily life during different periods in British history. A lot of good stuff there.

    • DoingDewey

      It was a great introduction 🙂 And I think the author really is filling a gap in a lot of history books (and even more so in historical fiction) where we often only hear about the nobles and the details of everyone’s daily lives are glossed over.

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