The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer
Best for: Anyone wanting to learn more about the (interesting!) minutia and day-to-day bits of life during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.
In a nutshell: Author Ian Mortimer has researched source documents, including personal journals and diaries, as well as other sources to provide details about what it really meant to live in Elizabethan England.
“A woman may travel, pray, write, and generally go about her affairs just as freely as a man — as long as she is not married.”
“But it is the mass production of books in English that prompts the shift to a more literary culture, not printing itself.”
“At Christmas the wealthy are expected to entertain the less fortunate members of society.”
Why I chose it: It seems my books choices this year are: I live in England now and want to learn; I don’t have a job and need to figure out what I’m doing with my life; and Other. This is the first one.
This book took me FOREVER to read, but that’s because the information is so interesting and densely packed. I only found myself skimming a few parts; the rest was just fascinating. I’ve always wondered about the daily life in past time periods; most of what I know comes from either a short bit in a world history text book, or from movies. This book was just what I wanted.
Mr. Mortimer covers pretty much everything I’d wanted to learn about – he talks about the people, the role religion plays, the ethics and morals of the people, essentials (including money, which I still don’t really get), clothing, traveling, housing, food, illness, crime, and entertainment. Wherever possible, he includes details from diaries or letters written by someone who lived during this time.
I found the food, illness, and clothing sections the most interesting, but generally skimmed the entertainment section mostly because I was getting anxious and just wanted to finish the book (I might go back and read it again later). If you’re into history, I think you’ll probably enjoy this one.