Introduced by Christopher Dyer
Illustrated by Robert Venables
Funny, learned and frank, this book explores what life was really like in the Middle Ages. With specially commissioned illustrations by Robert Venables.
Funny, learned and frank, this is the book to read if you want to know what it was really like to live in the Middle Ages. For here you can explore the medieval era as you would a foreign country – its customs and dress codes, sights to see and who to consult if you are ill. Ian Mortimer blends in-depth scholarship with literary flair as he leads the reader on a fascinating journey through the streets and lanes of 14th-century England, detailing the landscapes and towns, the people and their homes, their pastimes and their laws. In ‘What to Eat and Drink’, he describes dinner in a noble household: ‘on a fish day you might be served a first course of lampreys baked in vinegar, pepper, ginger and cinnamon;’ and he reveals the ingredients of ‘pottage’, the staple food of peasants. In ‘What to Do’ he notes the people’s love of music and the ‘disguising games’ beloved by Edward III, who once took part himself by dressing as a giant bird. Jousting is essential viewing, though not for the faint-hearted: ‘In case you have any doubt about the level of danger, let it be stated unequivocally. Jousting is dangerous.’ ‘Health and Hygiene’ describes treatments that anticipate modern methods, such as trusses to repair hernias, and others which, mercifully, have been abandoned, such as the cure for quinsy (an abscess in the throat) that involves flaying and roasting a cat with the grease of a hedgehog and the fat of a bear, before anointing the sufferer. Robert Venables’s absorbing illustrations depict these diverse aspects of day-to-day life, from cooks at work to a scene at the gallows. This edition also includes a newly commissioned map of Medieval England.
‘After The Canterbury Tales, this has to be the most entertaining book ever written about the Middle Ages’
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