The past is a foreign country: this is your guidebook.
If you could travel back in time, the period from 1660 to 1700 would make one of the most exciting destinations in history. It is the age of Samuel Pepys and the Great Fire of London; bawdy comedy and the libertine court of Charles II; Christopher Wren in architecture, Henry Purcell in music and Isaac Newton in science — the civil wars are over and a magnificent new era has begun.
But what would it really be like to live in Restoration Britain? Where would you stay and what would you eat? What would you wear and where would you do your shopping? The third volume in the series of Ian Mortimer’s bestselling Time Traveller’s Guides answers the crucial questions that a prospective traveller to seventeenth-century Britain would ask.
How much should you pay for one of those elaborate wigs? Should you trust a physician who advises you to drink fresh cow’s urine to cure your gout? Why are boys made to smoke in school? And why are you unlikely to get a fair trial in court?
People’s lives are changing rapidly – from a world of superstition and religious explanation to rationalism and scientific calculation. In many respects the period sees the tipping point between the old world and the new as fear and uncertainty, hardship and eating with your fingers give way to curiosity and professionalism, fine wines and knives and forks. Travelling to Restoration Britain encourages us to reflect on the customs and practices of daily life – and this unique guide not only teaches us about the seventeenth century but makes us look with fresh eyes at the modern world.
We are an astonishing species. Over the past millennium of plagues and exploration, revolution and scientific discovery, woman’s rights and technological advances, human society has changed beyond recognition.
Sweeping through the last thousand years of human development, Human Race is a treasure chest of the lunar leaps and lightbulb moments that, for better or worse, have sent humanity swerving down a path that no one could ever have predicted.
But which of the last ten centuries saw the greatest changes in human history?
History’s greatest tour guide, Ian Mortimer, knows what answer he would give. But what’s yours?
In Centuries of Change bestselling historian Ian Mortimer takes you on a whirlwind tour of the last ten centuries of Western history. It is a journey into a past vividly brought to life and bursting with ideas, that pits one century against another in his quest to measure which century saw the greatest change.
We journey from a time when there was a fair chance of your village being burnt to the ground by invaders, and dried human dung was a recommended cure for cancer, to a world in which explorers sailed into the unknown and civilisations came into conflict with each other on an epic scale.
Here is a story of godly scientists, shrewd farmers, cold-hearted entrepreneurs and strong-minded women – a story of discovery, invention, revolution and cataclysmic shifts in perspective.
Centuries of Change is a journey into the past like no other. Our understanding of change will never be the same again, and the lessons we learn along the way are profound ones for us all.
The past is a foreign country - this is your guide.
We think of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603) as a golden age. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time?
In this book Ian Mortimer reveals a country in which life expectancy is in the early thirties, people still starve to death and Catholics are persecuted for their faith. Yet it produces some of the finest writing in the English language, some of the most magnificent architecture, and sees Elizabeth's subjects settle in America and circumnavigate the globe. Welcome to a country that is, in all its contradictions, the very crucible of the modern world.
Henry V is regarded as the great English hero. Lionised in his own day for his victory at Agincourt, his piety and his rigorous application of justice, he was elevated by Shakespeare into a champion of English nationalism for all future generations. But what was he really like? Does he deserve to be thought of as 'the greatest man who ever ruled England?'
In Ian Mortimer's groundbreaking book, he portrays Henry in the pivotal year of his reign. Recording the dramatic events of 1415, he offers the fullest, most precise and least romanticised view we have of Henry and what he did.
The result is not only a fascinating reappraisal of Henry; it brings to the fore many unpalatable truths which biographers and military historians have largely ignored. At the centre of the book is the campaign which culminated in the battle of Agincourt: a slaughter ground designed not to advance England's interests directly but to demonstrate God's approval of Henry's royal authority on both sides of the Channel.
The past is a foreign country: this is your guidebook.
Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? Should you go to a castle or a monastic guesthouse? And what are you going to eat? What sort of food are you going to be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord?
This is the most astonishing social history book you are ever likely to read: revolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance and fear.
BRAIN SHOTS: the byte-sized guide to a completely different world: England in the Middle Ages
One night in August 1323 a captive rebel baron, Sir Roger Mortimer, drugged his guards and escaped from the Tower of London. With the king's men-at-arms in pursuit he fled to the south coast, and sailed to France. There he was joined by Isabella, the Queen of England, who threw herself into his arms. A year later, as lovers, they returned with an invading army: King Edward II's forces crumbled before them, and Mortimer took power. He removed Edward II in the first deposition of a monarch in British history. Then the ex-king was apparently murdered, some said with a red-hot poker, in Berkeley Castle.
Brutal, intelligent, passionate, profligate, imaginative and violent: Sir Roger Mortimer was an extraordinary character. It is not surprising that the queen lost her heart to him. Nor is it surprising that his contemporaries were terrified of him. But until now no one has appreciated the full evil genius of the man. This first biography reveals not only the man's career as a feudal lord, a governor of Ireland, a rebel leader and a dictator of England but also the truth of what happened that night in Berkeley Castle.
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there...
Imagine you could travel back to the fourteenth century. What would you see, and hear, and smell? Where would you stay? What are you going to eat? And how are you going to test to see if you are going down with the plague?
In The Time Traveller's Guide Ian Mortimer's radical new approach turns our entire understanding of history upside down. History is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived, whether that's the life of a peasant or a lord. The result is perhaps the most astonishing history book you are ever likely to read; as revolutionary as it is informative, as entertaining as it is startling.
In June 1405, King Henry IV stopped at a small Yorkshire manor house to shelter from a storm. That night he awoke screaming that traitors were burning his skin. His instinctive belief that he was being poisoned was understandable: he had already survived at least eight plots to dethrone or kill him in the first six years of his reign.
Henry IV had not always been so unpopular. In his youth he had been a great chivalric champion and crusader. The son of John of Gaunt, he was courteous, confident, well-educated, generous, devoted to his family, musical and spiritually fervent. In 1399, at the age of thirty-two, he was enthusiastically greeted as the saviour of the realm when he ousted from power the insecure and tyrannical King Richard II.
But therein lay Henry's weakness. He had to contend with men who supported him only as long as they could control him; when they failed, they plotted to kill him. Welsh, French and Scottish adversaries also tried to take advantage of his questionable right to the crown. Such overwhelming threats transformed him from a hero into a duplicitous murderer: a king prepared to go to any lengths to save his family and his throne.
That legacy of unrest has defined Henry's subsequent reputation. Henry's notoriety in the sixteenth century was such that merely to write about him was to risk imprisonment in the Tower. Shakespeare was forced to downplay his achievements, and instead to present his adversary Richard II as the wronged man. But what Henry actually provoked was a social revolution as much as a political one. Against all the odds, he took a poorly ruled nation, established a new Lancastrian dynasty, and introduced the principle that a king must act in accordance with parliament. He might not have been the most glorious king England ever had, but he was one of the bravest, and certainly the greatest survivor of them all.
He ordered his uncle to be beheaded; he usurped his father's throne; he started a war which lasted for more than a hundred years, and taxed his people more than any other previous king. Yet for centuries Edward III was celebrated as the most brilliant king England had ever had, and three hundred years after his death it was said that his kingship was perhaps the greatest that the world had ever known.
In this first full study of the man's character and life, Ian Mortimer shows how Edward personally provided the impetus for much of the drama of his fifty-year reign. Under him the feudal kingdom of England became a highly organised nation and experienced its longest period of domestic peace in the middle ages.
Nineteenth century historians saw in Edward the opportunity to decry a warmonger, and painted him as a self-seeking, rapacious, tax-gathering conqueror. Yet as this book shows, beneath the strong warrior king was a compassionate, conscientious and often merciful man - resolute yet devoted to his wife, friends and family. He emerges as a strikingly modern figure, to whom many will be able to relate - the father of both the English nation and the English people.
Dr Ian Mortimer is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England and The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, as well as four critically acclaimed medieval biographies, and numerous scholarly articles on subjects ranging in date from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998. His work on the social history of medicine won the Alexander Prize (2004) and was published by the Royal Historical Society in 2009. He lives with his wife and three children in Moretonhampstead, on the edge of Dartmoor.