The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “The past is a foreign country: this is your guidebook. 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.”

REVIEW: This has to be one of the most gripping and entertaining non-fiction books I have read in a long time. Mortimer takes the reader through all imaginable aspects of life in Elizabethan England, from life at court to life for the poor, from food to clothing, from travel to entertainment – all the while punctuating pages of extensively researched information with witty anecdotes and contemporary accounts of the period. This is the first book I have read that has truly made me feel as though I myself am living in Elizabethan England, and has given me a great deal of information that I did not previously know of. I was also impressed by how Mortimer managed to present the information – much of which had the potential to be quite dull – in a witty manner that made the whole book both engaging and as easy to read as a piece of fiction. This book would be a great introduction to those who know very little about the reign of Elizabeth, and also adds something new for the more seasoned historian looking for something new to read.

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