Book Review: Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England

Cover of Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan EnglandThis is history just the geeky fun way I like it!  The Time Traveller’s Guide is a non-fiction history book about Elizabethan England, but it’s written as a travel guide for time travellers.  This means that there’s nothing ponderous about it.  If you want to know the underlying causes of the Spanish Armada attacking England, you probably won’t find it in here (although the book is pretty big – I might have missed that part).  If you want to know how to greet people, and what people eat, and how to brush your teeth and where to take a dump, look no further.

The book is conversational, practical, and amazingly detailed.  Because it’s written in little sections, it’s a handy book to keep in the bathroom or by the table – places where you might want to read something really entertaining for a few minutes, although it’s certainly entertaining enough to read cover to cover.

Author Ian Mortimer has also written a Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England (and a lot of other history, as well as fiction).  If only he would write a Guide to Regency England, my life would be complete.  In the meantime, I know how to avoid the plague, and how to keep myself clean (linen plays an important role) and what to wear.  I know that witchcraft was not yet equated with Satanism, but I could still be hung for it, and being a coal miner was a wretched job that usually resulted in death, while being a domestic servant usually involved rape (of the servant, alas).  I know that I will be expected to wash my hands before dinner, although not with soap.  The most depressing thing I learned so far was that infant and early childhood mortality rates were huge.  The most cheerful thing I learned so far?  Reading was wildly popular, and almost everyone could read, at least a little bit.  Surely I could feel just a little bit at home in a world where everyone loves to read as much as I do.