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

I gave top marks to Ian Mortimer’s book The Time Traveler’s Guide To Medieval England, and I’m overjoyed beyond words to see this book now in the Audible lineup. More please! Mortimer’s claim of history is that a relic or a ruin can only teach us so much about history; what we understand about our own world is what makes those lessons accessible. As such, the “gimmicky” nature of this history book sets it apart from all others because it’s not “that book.” It’s an in-depth portrait of England’s “Golden Age” under the reign of Gloriana that connects the dots between the people of that time and ours. It’s a present tense account that allows the reader to fully explore a time, place, and culture in a fully three-dimensional way, complete with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, personalities, attitudes, hopes, fears, ambitions, and everything else that is generally omitted from the textbooks of names, dates, and events. Complex issues such as religion and politics of the age are brought to life in a way that an outsider can understand it and embrace it as a catapult to further exploration. But at the same time, you get to walk down the streets, take in the sights, meet the people, and peek into their lives like a tourist… or an intruder. You will laugh. You will cringe. You will pick your jaw up off the ground. And mostly, you will become familiar with a world that would otherwise be completely alien to us and gain an appreciation for it you might not otherwise get from those other books alone.

As with the Medieval England book, this is a near-perfect work, not only for the historically-inclined like myself, but also for those who claim to hate history because it’s “boring.” Mortimer’s brand of history is a public service for the rest of us that brings both the modern sensibilities of “just the facts” found in the sterile accounts offered today as well as the kind of storytelling magic that historians of yesteryear brought to the table. The result is as close to living history as we can get without actually traveling through time, and it is astounding, if only because we don’t have to smell it. If I have a complaint at all, it’s that I want MORE. Hopefully those other books will be added to the Audible lineup in the near future.

5 stars

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