The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England

Written by Ian Mortimer
Review by Ruth Downie

‘Sometimes the past will inspire you and sometimes it will leave you weeping.’ This is history for everyone: the political and religious upheavals of Elizabethan England embedded in a wealth of information about the way its people thought, worked and lived. Ian Mortimer’s approach is at once informed and informal as he steers the reader through Landscape, People, Religion, Character, Basic Essentials, What to Wear, Travelling, Where to Stay, What to Eat and Drink, Hygiene, Illness and Medicine, Law and Disorder and Entertainment. We see injustice, suffering, religious bigotry and racism. We also see the boldness that sends men to circumnavigate the globe, and a wondrous explosion of creativity that produces Shakespeare, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. On a more practical note, the widely-held belief that our ancestors were immune to the bad smells around them turns out to be just plain wrong.

This book left me with a sense of both the richness and the terrifying uncertainty of an era in which individuals could, and did, change the course of society. It is both an education and a delight.