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’
Ian Mortimer is a British historian. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) for his work on the social history of medicine. He is the author of four medieval biographies, The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer (2003), The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III (2006), The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King (2007) and 1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory (2009), and a book of related scholarly essays, Medieval Intrigue. In 2009 his PhD thesis was published by the Royal Historical Society as The Dying and the Doctors. In 2012, following the success of his The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer published a sequel, The Time Travellers Guide to Elizabethan England, which is now a three-part TV series presented by him. Ian Mortimer also writes historical fiction under his middle names, James Forrester, and has published three novels – the ‘Clarenceux trilogy’ – set in the 1560s.
Christopher Dyer is Emeritus Professor of Regional and Local History at the University of Leicester, attached to the Centre for English Local History. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He is well known as a historian of everyday life. His most recent publication is A Country Merchant: 1495–1520. Trading and Farming at the End of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2012).
Robert Venables is a British artist, who studied graphic design at the Central School of Art and Design in London. A master of the pastiche, Robert has created many high-profile advertising campaigns through major international advertising agencies. He is also a prolific editorial illustrator creating illustrations for many magazines and newspapers. For The Folio Society he has previously illustrated The Persian Expedition and The Violet Fairy Book.
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