Words to time travel by.

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth CenturyThe Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer

A wealth of detail in this you-are-there look at life in medieval England. Just dipping in at random:

When you draw closer to the city walls you will see the great gatehouse…And then you notice the smell. Four hundred yards from the city gate, the muddy road you are folowing crosses a brook. As you look along the banks you see piles of refuse, broken crockery, animal bones, entrails, human feces, and rotting meat strewn in and around the bushes. In some places the muddy banks slide into thick quagmires whhere townsmen have hauled out their refuse and pitched it into the stream. In others, rich green grasses, reeds, and undergrowth spring from the highly fertilized earth. As you watch, two seminaked men lift another barrel of excrement from the back of a cart and empty it into the water. A small brown pig roots around in the garbage. It is not called Shitbrook for nothing.


Medieval society thinks of itself like this: there are three sections of society, or “estates,” created by God–those who fight [the aristocracy], those who pray [the clergy], and those work the land [the peasantry]…Between 1333 and 1346 it is systematically shredded by the English longbowmen, who, although ranked among “those who work,” show that they are a far more potent military force than the massed charging ranks of “those who fight.”


…women are blamed for all the physical, intellectual, and moral weaknesses of society.

and, delightfully

If you find yourself speaking English with the locals do not be surprised if their language gets a little rough around the edges. Just as fourteenth-century place names are direct descriptions of localities (for instance: “Shitbrook Street,” Pissing Alley”), so daily speech is equally straightforward and ribald…So if someone slaps you on the back in a hearty way and exclaims, “Your breeches and your very balls be blessed” do not take it amiss. It is a compliment.

Words to time travel by.

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Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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