24 February 2022

Review: The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer audiobook cover

It's been 11 years since I read and enjoyed The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. At the time I found it illuminating, fascinating, shocking and at times even funny, and I'm surprised it's taken me so long to pick up another in the series.

That's the way of readers though isn't it? There's so many back catalogue books to catch up on, that before you know it, a decade has passed before you pick up another one.

Nevertheless, The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer was another five star reading experience and met all my hopes and expectations. It took me two months to get through the 18 hour audiobook, but the narration was terrific and it's easy to listen to non fiction like this in short bursts.

Once again, the author takes the reader's hand and shows them around Elizabethan England, pointing out the different places to stay, what you might earn, what to wear, and what to eat.

I loved the general etiquette rules from Chapter 19. Mortimer draws on several references, but the following rules were from The Boke of Nurture, or Schoole of Good Maners; For Men, Servants, and Children by Hugh Rhodes published in 1577.
On manners and politeness:
Don't tell secrets to strangers
Don't correct the faults in others that you commit yourself
Rebuke men only when alone with them
Don't boast
Don't laugh at your own jokes

At table:
Don't belch in another man's face
Keep your knife bright
Don't spit across the table
Don't blow crumbs or spit on the floor near you
Don't throw bones under the table
I just loved these! It's fascinating to learn that in 450 years, some things have changed while others are timeless. The combination of content and the narrator Mike Grady's delivery of the rules was very entertaining, and I just stepped away from this review to listen to them all again for sheer pleasure. I'll leave you with one more quote:
"It is customary to take your hat off when someone urinates or defecates in your company." Chapter 19
According to the author, 'noisome smells and noxious fumes are common in Elizabethan England' and the section on sanitation in Chapter 34 was engrossing (pun intended) and amusing.

The introduction of tobacco, smoking and pipes was mentioned, and this observation from the time made me laugh:
"Smoking makes your breath stink like the piss of a fox." Chapter 40
Finishing The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England means I'm now halfway through this non fiction series, and still have the following books to look forward to:
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain
These two eras don't interest me as much as Elizabethan England and Medieval England did, but I'm sure they'll be informative and entertaining reads just the same. I've just added them to my TBR, but how long will it be until I get to one of them?

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. I’m very curious about these books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. Thanks Shelleyrae, they're absolutely terrific and perfect for your non fiction reading challenge ;-)


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